Flunking a test isn’t normally a cause for celebration, but in Richard Garside’s case, it may very well have saved his life.
The 64-year-old fitness enthusiast didn’t think much of the stress treadmill test he took in late 2022.
“I was working out every day and feeling good, so I thought I did really well,” Garside said. “But when I got the results, I was surprised to learn I’d failed.”
He’d been regularly taking stress tests at his doctor’s office to see how his heart performed under physical strain for the past four years after learning he had a small blockage in the vessels supplying blood to his heart.
“It wasn’t significant enough to warrant a procedure, so we decided to monitor it,” he said.
He shared his test results with Ruby Satpathy, MD, FACC, FSCAI, an interventional cardiologist with Baptist Heart Specialists and medical director of the Baptist Health Structural Heart Program, who had performed an earlier, minimally invasive heart procedure on him. She immediately scheduled Garside for a catheterization procedure to evaluate his heart.
Finding the blockages
The procedure was supposed to take around two hours.
“When they wheeled him back into the room after an hour, I thought, ‘Great! No stents,’” said Garside’s wife, Kristi.
But it turned out that Richard had 90%, 80% and 60% blockages in three vessels supplying blood to his heart.
"We do a lot of complex catheter-based interventional procedures at Baptist Health with great outcomes," said Dr. Satpathy. "But he needed open-heart surgery, specifically a CABG [coronary artery bypass grafting] procedure, because of multiple blockages and the location of blockages." She broke the news to the couple.
“It caught both Kristi and me off guard,” Garside said. But 10 minutes later, Dr. Satpathy returned with Nathan Bates, MD, FACS, chief of cardiac surgery at Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville, who would be performing the surgery. “The first thing Dr. Bates did was grab my leg and say, ‘Hey, I've got you. We’re going to take care of you.’”
Baptist Health does more CABG procedures (heart bypass surgeries) than any other hospital in Jacksonville and has received a prestigious three-star rating from The Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS) for excellent patient care and outcomes.
“Patients and their loved ones can rest assured knowing we provide quality care,” said Dr. Bates. “We’re a high-volume center that treats hundreds of patients every year who rely on us for complex heart surgery.”
The Garsides had a lot of questions going into the pre-operative meeting.
“Dr. Bates was phenomenal with us,” Richard Garside said. “He answered every question with patience, kindness, clarity and directness, which is very important to us.”
Focused on fitness, sans symptoms
As his surgery approached, Garside was still surprised he didn’t have any classic symptoms of heart disease.
“I was working out six days a week and had no idea anything was wrong,” he said. According to Dr. Bates, this isn’t unusual, which is why tests like the stress test and calcium score test are so important.
Garside had the bypass procedure within two weeks of learning he needed it.
“I had the surgery on Monday and left the hospital on Friday,” he said.
It was when he returned home, however, that the work really began. Kristi Garside created walking tracks to help get her husband up and moving safely. And a nurse made regular home visits for the first three weeks.
“She phoned on Friday to make sure we arrived home OK and then stopped by on Saturday,” Kristi said. “Who shows up on a Saturday these days? I was so impressed!”
“The continuum of care was exceptional throughout the whole process, from the pre-op appointment through to the nine-week cardiac rehabilitation program at Baptist Medical Center South,” said Richard Garside. “I can’t say enough about the rehab team. They were a joy to work with.”
The program provided exercise counseling and training, and was bookended by a six-minute walk and distance test around a track. Garside was told he broke the program’s record for distance at the completion of the program.
Taking care, inside and out
Every medical professional who has seen Garside’s scar can immediately tell Dr. Bates was his surgeon.
“It’s so neat, it looks like a plastic surgery scar,” Garside said.
Dr. Bates and certified physician assistant Craig Acosta, PA-C, take great care with this process.
“It’s the only thing patients can see,” said Dr. Bates. “They can’t see what we’ve done inside, but I want them to know the inside matches what they see outside.”
Five months after his bypass, Garside has resumed all his normal fitness routines. He walks every morning and does 30 minutes of weight training daily.
“Although I’m still a little sensitive, I’m careful and I actually feel great,” he said.
The couple recently returned from a long-planned vacation.
“The minute this all happened, our priority was being home and recovering, so we canceled everything for four months,” said Kristi Garside. “But Dr. Bates said the trip was the one date to keep. He said, ‘That's the goal, and you’re going to get there.’ And we did.”
“Like all things in life, it’s about relationships,” said Garside. “And this experience was a great example of Baptist Health culture and their commitment to their patients.”