Precautionary stress test at Baptist Clay helped catch blockages, led to potentially life-saving triple bypass surgery

Gary McLaughlin was doing everything by the book.

His five-year window was up and he needed a colonoscopy. But when he arrived for the procedure, the nurse picked up an irregularity in an EKG and sent him to his primary care physician for another look.

His primary care doctor, Michael Stephens, MD, told Gary he had a slightly irregular heartbeat, which might be common for a 65-year-old, but he wanted him to have a stress test, just to be safe.

Good thing.

Gary took a stress test at the Baptist Clay Medical Campus and met with cardiologist Simone Nader, MD, with Baptist Heart Specialists. Dr. Nader saw enough issues in Gary’s stress test to refer him to Baptist Heart Hospital for a cardiac catheterization to determine if he had a blocked artery. Turns out he had three. Gary had triple bypass surgery in July and Dr. Nader said his recovery is ahead of schedule.

Looking back, Gary says he did have some tightness in his chest, but he thought it was from arthritis that runs in his family. He was doing regular, day-to-day activities and never would have thought his heart was essentially a ticking time bomb.

“It’s great they are able to catch these things early like this now. I guess before you’d just die and that was it,” Gary said. “I thought everything was fine.”

Symptoms like chest tightness need to be checked out, though most people do just attribute these issues to slowing down some with age, Dr. Nader said.

“It is so important to pay attention to what your body is telling you,” Dr. Nader reminds us. “It tells you things for a reason.”

Just weeks after his surgery, Gary was already walking two miles a day. Soon, he’ll start comprehensive cardiac rehabilitation, a 12-week program that gives patients the knowledge and tools they need to lead a heart-healthy lifestyle.

He’s on the road to recovery and focusing more on his health, thankful that preventive care was able to catch his heart problems before it was too late.