Healing a heart

Man spends Christmas at home after heart surgery

Man spends Christmas at home after heart surgery

December 30, 2002|by SCOTT BUTKI

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Under normal circumstances, Carroll Link would have been dead months ago from complications of a massive heart attack in February, a Washington Adventist Hospital physician said Friday.

Since the February attack, Link, 58, has been taken to hospital emergency rooms about 12 to 14 times when his heart failed, said Dr. Salim Aziz, attending surgeon at Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park, Md.

But after undergoing a relatively new heart surgery procedure earlier this month, Link, a Washington County resident, was not only alive but celebrating Christmas at home with his family this week.


"It has been a long 10 months," Link's wife, Lorraine, said.

This week is the first time in months that a constant chest pain is gone, Carroll Link said.

He is looking forward to being able to walk, fish, hunt, and participate in other activities that he has not been able to do since before the heart attack, he said.

His wife joked with him about giving him a list of things to do when he was feeling better, he said.

"But I just want him to enjoy life for a while," Lorraine Link said.

Link was at home alone Feb. 6 when he started to get cold sweats. At that point, he thought it might be kidney stones, with which he has had prior problems, he said.

"It felt like there was a Mack truck sitting on my chest," Link said.

Link worked at Mack for about 30 years before retiring in 1995.

Link said he only remembers parts of the ambulance and helicopter trips to hospitals for treatment, which included a stent and angioplasty.

After the heart attack, Link went into shock because his heart was not pumping enough blood, Aziz said.

"He was literally on the verge of dying," Aziz said.

Link did not expect to survive the attack, but his wife said she was convinced he would.

"I knew he was going to make it," she said.

Link later was released from the hospital but his heart was still not pumping out as much blood as it should, Aziz said. This led to the heart failures when fluid would be retained in his body, causing Link's whole body to swell, Aziz said.

During these times, Link's wife would go with him to the hospitals, often sleeping on hospital chairs.

"When you get to an emergency room and you know the nurses by name, you have been going there too often," Lorraine Link said.

Eventually, Link's local physician referred him to Aziz.

Aziz has done the Dor procedure, in which the heart is remodeled and reshaped, about 25 times during the last 18 months. It is the first time the procedure, named after the doctor who invented it, has been done in this area, Aziz said.

Aziz compared the surgery to someone having a pair of baggy trousers which, when muscles change or are adjusted, fit better.

As part of the Dec. 9 medical work, Link also received double bypass surgery, and a patch made of cow tissue was put inside Link's heart.

There could be future heart problems but those will probably be easily fixed with medication, Carroll Link said.

What matters, the Links said, is that the procedure has improved his condition and he can enjoy life again.

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