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Sweethearts Share Cardiac Treatment

Heart conditions can’t stop Depoe Bay couple 

He has a heart of gold that’s survived a heart attack and quadruple bypass surgery.

She’s his angel, with a heart flutter and atrial fibrillation.

Byron and Marcia Lewis don’t let their heart conditions stop them from living life to its fullest. The Depoe Bay couple fulfilled a lifelong dream when they retired to the Central
Oregon Coast 12 years ago, where Byron continues to surf, and keeps busy with community service and consulting work. After a career as a maternity nurse, Marcia now enjoys crafts, painting acrylics and decorating dried gourds, and doting on their three dogs.

Both Marcia and Byron rely on cardiologist Jeff Hsing, MD, and physician assistant Maggie Ebert at Samaritan Heart Center in Corvallis to keep their hearts healthy. Both have been treated here for irregular heartbeats.

“Dr. Hsing is such a nice man,” Marcia said. “He explains things very well.”

Byron also sees Dimitri Greschner, MD, of Samaritan Cardiology. Byron’s heart troubles began with hypertension in his 20s, before he and Marcia met at as college students at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Marcia was a single mom raising her daughter while studying to be a nurse. Byron was working on a master’s degree in marriage, family and child counseling. They were introduced through a roommate and fell in love. They’ve been married 39 years.

The Lewises lived overseas in Germany for several years, before returning to the Bay Area to be near family. That’s when Byron had a heart attack at age 45. 

“He was out surfing, at the bottom of the cliff,” Marcia recalled.

The doctors treated a significant blockage in one of his arteries with angioplasty, a surgical repair to unblock the artery, and he began a radical heart-healthy program. A year later, Byron had another episode. He woke up one morning and complained he was too tired to go to work. He asked Marcia to call in for him, something he had never done before. Marcia was already on her way to work, but she returned home and found Byron still in bed. She took him to the hospital where they found major blockages in four arteries.

“He calls me his angel,” Marcia said.

At 46, Byron had quadruple bypass surgery. Three days later he was working on a household project with a hammer and saw. Although not medically advised, only six weeks into his recovery, he started surfing again.

“Nobody would have guessed that he had bypass surgery,” Marcia said. “There’s no stopping him.”

In 2014, Byron underwent an ablation procedure with Dr. Hsing for atrial flutter, an abnormal heart rhythm that causes the upper chambers of the heart to beat too fast and out of sync with the lower chambers. An ablation is a minimally invasive procedure which uses radiofrequency energy (heat) or cryotherapy (cold) to destroy tissues that cause the irregular heartbeat. For many patients, an ablation can reduce or completely eliminate symptoms.

Then Marcia, 70, began experiencing atrial flutter. She would have to lie down and rest until the symptoms subsided. About 20 years ago, Marcia was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, an irregular and often rapid heart rate. Atrial fibrillation affects people differently. For some, it can be disabling, while others with the condition aren’t even aware. Medication has helped Marcia to manage symptoms of atrial fibrillation. Dr. Hsing also tried an ablation procedure to see if it could control the flutter.

While Byron’s symptoms went away immediately after the ablation, Marcia’s flutter has continued. But she meets regularly with her care team at Samaritan, who help her heart stay healthy.

Meanwhile, Byron, 68, recently completed treatment for head and neck cancer. Byron’s cancer care brought them back to the Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center campus, where following surgery, he received seven weeks of chemotherapy and radiation treatment. To make things easier, the couple brought their RV and the dogs and stayed at Pastega House, a home away from home for out-of-area patients and families traveling to Corvallis for specialized medical care.

Having faced Byron’s heart issues relatively early in life, the couple learned not to take things for granted. It’s allowed them to focus on what’s most important, family, traveling and spending time together.

“We don’t want to delve into the darkness all the time. That’s not who we are,” Marcia said. “We really, really enjoy ourselves.”