Husband, Dad, Coach, Referee and Heart Patient Who Runs a 10-Minute Mile (So Far)
“After heart surgery, I was afraid I might have to give up coaching and officiating, but with help from my family, friends and the folks at MidMichigan, I feel like I can accomplish my goals.”
Heart Problems Didn't Sideline This Ref, Thanks to MidMichigan's Cardiac Team
It was a normal October for Ed Phillipson. He officiated a doubleheader basketball game one day and a playoff football game two days later. “I ran all over the court on Wednesday and ran up and down the field on Friday,” said Ed, a Dow Chemical Company employee who also coaches basketball and is a semi-pro football referee.
But a few days later, he had triple bypass open heart surgery.
Aware of his patient’s family history of heart attack, Ed’s primary care provider thought the lower back pain Ed had been fighting, combined with a minor breathing symptom and high cholesterol, might signal a heart issue. The stress test the provider ordered showed he was right.
The Hemlock husband and father of two daughters was scheduled to receive a stent in a partially blocked artery. But during Ed’s procedure in the cardiac catheterization lab at MidMichigan Medical Center–Midland, Interventional Cardiologist Michael Lauer, M.D., discovered that three arteries supplying blood to Ed’s heart were 99, 94 and 92 percent blocked with hard plaque.
“When Dr. Lauer couldn’t get the catheter through any of my arteries, he stopped the procedure because he felt that open heart surgery would be a better option to improve the blood supply to my heart,” Ed said.
After Ed learned how coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery would fix the problem, Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgeon Robert Jones, M.D. and Nurse Practitioner Janet Beattie, F.N.P.-B.C., came to talk over his questions and concerns. He told them he wanted to go home before surgery to take care of some yard work and do things like cover his roses.
”Eddie,” Janet said, “you don’t understand how serious this is. If I let you go home, you might not make it back. I can’t let you out of my sight. I’m going to take care of you.”
As Janet walked Ed through what was going to happen, her caring presence and personal touch made him feel more at ease. “I trusted her 100 percent,” he said. “She and all my doctors were phenomenal.”
During a triple bypass open heart procedure on November 5 at MidMichigan Medical Center–Midland, the circulation to Ed’s heart was restored. After several days recovering in a private patient room, Ed returned home where he received regular visits from MidMichigan Home Care's cardiac recovery nurses. The nurses monitored Ed’s vital signs remotely between visits using a telehealth monitoring system. The high-tech device collects vital signs in the comfort of a patient's home and transmits them by phone to experts at MidMichigan Home Care for review.
“From day one, I wanted to get better,” he said. “I was afraid I might have to give up my passions of officiating and coaching. I also love outdoor activities and being physically fit. I wanted to do the things I’ve always done in the past, and still be able to do them when I’m 90 years old.”
When Ed was given the OK to walk as much as he could, he found that walking not only increased his strength, but also relieved his anxiety. Within a month he was covering five to six miles a day, on the flat part of his driveway when weather permitted, or in a circular route through the rooms of his house.
His wife, Kari, and daughters all supported his efforts. Friends would drive over to walk with him, and even his dog and two cats helped out. “My dog would walk the driveway and the circuit around the house with me. My pets would also sense if I seemed low and try to pick me up.”
His 10-year-old daughter logged his progress. “She circled the number on her whiteboard when I had a progress record, or she’d tell me, ‘Dad, you need to get walking. You’re one behind where you were yesterday.’ She was a great inspiration to me.”
Ed said he “tried a little of everything” that was recommended to help his recovery. “Besides exercise programs, I had nutrition coaching, and I talked to a social worker and psychologist to keep my mind from going places it shouldn’t go,” he said. “They armed me with the things necessary to make changes, and it was up to me to follow through.”
About six weeks after surgery, Ed started three months of cardiac rehabilitation at the Fitness Center at MidMichigan Medical Offices–Campus Ridge.
“What a wonderful experience!” he said. “We were a big, cohesive group that were all in this recovery together. We leaned on each other to try and get better. I cherished the camaraderie and made several good friends while in the program.”
As Ed got stronger, he wanted to do as much as he could. His therapists helped him safely push his limits and, on February 20, he had a breakthrough moment he’ll never forget. Exercise Physiologist Denae Buda, B.S., said, “Ed, you’ve been walking at 3.9 mph. Jogging is 4.0. Are you ready to run?”
“I had goose bumps,” he said. “I took about five minutes to work up to it and then ran for one minute at 5.5 mph. Then they shut down the treadmill, and I heard Denae say, ‘Ed! You did it!’ I started crying like a baby because I was so happy.”
By the end of rehab, Ed had lost about 18 pounds, with a target of 25 by summer. Kari is now running, too, and both are conscious of setting an example of eating right and exercising for their girls.
Ed can now run a mile without stopping. “Yesterday, I ran a 10-minute mile, and my goal is to do an 8-minute mile by spring break. I hope to start coaching in the spring and officiating in the summer. With help from my family, friends and the folks at MidMichigan, I feel like I can accomplish my goals.”
MidMichigan Health offers a full array of cardiovascular services, including open heart surgery, electrophysiology for heart rhythm problems and advanced interventional procedures. For more information, visit www.midmichigan.org/heart.