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Running the distance after heart bypass

Fargo man, now in his 70s, back to running half marathons after procedure, rehab

Dave Green of Fargo is back running half marathons (14 last year) after having a heart bypass surgery in 2019. Contributed photo

Dave Green of Fargo ran early in life, but really became an avid runner in 2008 with his first half marathon in Phoenix, Ariz. As he entered his 60s, he still had plenty of stamina and a good pace, but in the fall of 2018, he could tell something wasn’t right. He had started to develop shortness of breath while running, and noticed his times were deteriorating. He went in for a treadmill stress test and completed an angiogram – a diagnostic procedure that uses imaging to show a person’s blood flow through the body. It was quickly discovered that Dave’s heart had significant blockage in three arteries; heart bypass surgery was recommended.

Heart bypass surgery – also known as Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting (CABG, pronounced like “cabbage”) – involves creating a new path for blood to flow around a blocked or partially blocked artery. The surgery involves taking a blood vessel from another part of the body and connecting it to the heart and below the impacted artery. This new pathway improves blood flow and can help reduce symptoms like shortness of breath and chest pain.

Dave underwent surgery in January 2019, and under the care of Dr. Lola Oluleye, began his cardio rehabilitation after being discharged from the hospital.

Over the next several weeks, Dave tested and strengthened his heart. He started by moving his legs, walking on a treadmill, before advancing to machines and exercises that eventually incorporated his arms.

By May of 2019, Dave’s care team turned him loose and he was back to running.

“I started with a couple of 5Ks and 10Ks before I made my way back up to half-marathons, and I’ve been continuing to do that ever since,” said Dave, now in his 70s. “Last year, I did 14 half-marathons, and my aim is to do that again this year.”

His times were a little higher than they were in 2019, but he was happy to be back.

“While I didn’t get back to the level I was hoping for with my times, I am not having any issues with my heart. Everyone that I’ve seen, from my cardiologist to the surgeon and his support team, has been great and they were all pleased with my recovery.”

Dave already has one race for 2023 under his belt, having completed a hilly half-marathon in Los Angeles in January -- likely the first of many this year.

When to seek care

Patients should consider seeing a cardiologist if they are experiencing dizzy spells, shortness of breath or chest pain.

Symptoms include

• Men may feel pain and numbness in the left arm or side of chest, but in women these symptoms may appear on the right side.

• Women may feel completely exhausted, drained, dizzy or nauseous.

• Women may feel upper back pain that travels into their jaw.

• Women may think their stomach pain is the flu, heartburn or an ulcer.

• Feeling of fullness.

• Pain that travels down one or both arms.

• Excessive fatigue or weakness.

• Anxiety.

• In some instances, the signs and symptoms are different. The patient may not complain about pain or pressure in the chest. Be alert for the following:

• A sharp or “knife-like” pain that occurs with coughing or breathing.

• Pain that spreads above the jawbone or into the lower body.

• Difficult or labored breathing.

Article/information provided by Essentia Health

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