College Surgery Partnership

Tel: 01884 831300

Opening Times: 8.30am-6.30pm

Culm Valley Integrated Centre For Health, Willand Rd, Cullompton, Devon, EX15 1FE

CABG (coronary artery bypass graft)

"The secret is to stay positive"

Chauffeur Alec Keep, aged 66 when interviewed, had a heart bypass in March 2007 in Papworth Hospital, after he had two heart attacks.

"I had the first heart attack in November 2006. It came as a complete surprise. I hadn't had any symptoms, I was active and thought I was quite fit, although people had commented that I sounded out of breath on occasion. It was like a band of pain across my chest.

"The British Heart Foundation had just launched its "Doubt Kills" poster campaign, which urged you to call 999 if you have chest pain. I passed the poster on my way home and it saved my life. Someone was with me within four or five minutes. I was rushed into Bedford Hospital, where I stayed for eight days.

"A few weeks later I went back to the hospital for an angiogram, which showed that three of my coronary arteries were blocked. I was told I would need to have a heart bypass. I had the second heart attack in January while I was waiting for the bypass appointment and stayed in hospital until I had the bypass.

"My way of coping with the operation was not to discuss it with any hospital staff beforehand. I knew roughly what was going to happen but I didn't want to know anything else. I was confident they had found out what was wrong and were going to fix it. Even when the anaesthetist came down before the operation, I didn't want to discuss it. I was fine until the day before when I phoned my wife and we both started crying.

"On the day of the operation I had an injection to relax me and a shot to put me out. The next thing I remember was waking up in the recovery room covered in drains, wires and drips. I stayed there until the next day and was then taken to the ward.

"They try to get you active quickly. The day after the operation I sat in the chair while they made my bed. After three days I was walking round my bed and I gradually got stronger and stronger. Six days after the operation the physio came and checked that I could walk up and down the stairs. I was able to go home the next day.

"I was so pleased to be home. I had to take it slowly at first and I felt tired, but I've been walking every day and I'm now doing about 40 minutes a day. At first I took painkillers to control the pain in my chest. The sister at the hospital said: "Don't be a hero. If you can't breathe in and out because of the pain you won't be able to breathe properly." I'm pain-free during the day now, but I take a couple of painkillers before I go to bed because I tend to toss and turn a bit at night and can't get comfortable.

"I was driving again after a month, but I'm not allowed to take passengers yet. The scar in my chest is getting a lot better and looks very neat. The scar in my leg where they took the vein from has almost healed. To tell the truth, I haven't had the urge for sex since the first heart attack. We've been married for 44 years and my wife is great. I do find my concentration isn't quite what it was, but it's getting better every day.

"Throughout it all I've tried to stay positive and have a laugh. After all, a heart bypass is an everyday occurrence now and there's only a 4% failure rate. The way I coped was to believe that the doctors were going to do a proper job and they did."