Heart bypass surgery at Essentia Health helps one Fargo man keep running

Photo by: Essentia Health
Photo by: Essentia Health

(Fargo, ND) -- A local man has Essentia Health doctors to thank for keeping his dream of running alive.

Fargo-native Dave Green ran early in life, but became an avid runner in 2008 with his first half marathon in Phoenix, Arizona.

As he entered his 60s, Dave still had plenty of stamina and a good pace, but in the fall of 2018, he could tell something wasn’t right. He had started to develop shortness of breath while running and noticed his times were deteriorating. He went in for a treadmill stress test and completed an angiogram – a diagnostic procedure that uses imaging to show your body’s blood flow. It was quickly discovered that Dave’s heart had significant blockage in three arteries; heart bypass surgery was recommended.

As the name suggests, heart bypass surgery – also known as Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting – involves creating a new path for blood to flow around a blocked or partially blocked artery. The surgery involves taking a blood vessel from another part of the body and connecting it to the heart and below the impacted artery. This new pathway improves blood flow and can help reduce symptoms like shortness of breath and chest pain.

Dave underwent surgery in January 2019 and, under the care of Dr. Lola Oluleye, began his cardio rehabilitation after being discharged from the hospital.

Over the next several weeks, Dave tested and strengthened his heart. He started by moving his legs, walking on a treadmill, before advancing to machines and exercises that eventually incorporated his arms. By May of 2019, Dave’s care had team turned him loose and he was back to running.

“I started with a couple of 5Ks and 10Ks before I made my way back up to half-marathons, and I’ve been continuing to do that ever since,” says Dave, now in his 70s. “Last year, I did 14 half-marathons, and my aim is to do that again this year. While I didn’t get back to the level I was hoping for with my times, I am not having any issues with my heart. Everyone that I’ve seen, from my cardiologist to the surgeon and his support team, has been great and they were all pleased with my recovery. I was impressed with the care that I received.”

Dave already has one race for 2023 under his belt, having completed a hilly half-marathon in Los Angles in January. Thanks, in part, to the comprehensive care he received at Essentia Health-Fargo, it should be the first of many this year.

With Dave's story in mind, Essentia Health is providing tips on when to seek care if you come across a similar situation. The healthcare provider notes that patients should consider seeing a cardiologist if they are experiencing dizzy spells, shortness of breath or chest pain.

Risk factors for heart disease include the following:

  • Chest pain, pressure, burning, aching or tightness — it may come and go.
  • A family history of cardiovascular disease.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Overweight or obese.
  • Sedentary lifestyle.
  • Using tobacco products.
  • Metabolic disease, diabetes or other illnesses.
  • Taking certain birth control pills, a history of pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes or having a low-birthweight baby.

Symptoms include:

  • Men may feel pain and numbness in the left arm or side of chest, but in women these symptoms may appear on the right side.
  • Women may feel completely exhausted, drained, dizzy or nauseous.
  • Women may feel upper back pain that travels into their jaw.
  • Women may think their stomach pain is the flu, heartburn or an ulcer.
  • Feeling of fullness.
  • Pain that travels down one or both arms.
  • Excessive fatigue or weakness.
  • Anxiety.

In some instances, the signs and symptoms are different. The patient may not complain about pain or pressure in the chest. Be alert for the following:

  • A sharp or “knife-like” pain that occurs with coughing or breathing.
  • Pain that spreads above the jawbone or into the lower body.
  • Difficult or labored breathing.