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Building Longevity Together - Roger’s Story

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“I wondered, ‘Why would I have pain down there?’ I thought maybe it was an ulcer from stress.”

~Roger Seals

Albany Man Enjoys Active Life After Heart Surgery

Roger Seals is active in his 80s. 

Whether he is working at the popular Albany eatery that bears his name – Roger’s Restaurant, tending his garden and orchard - and helping neighbors out with their gardens too, or ocean fishing off the Oregon coast, he likes to keep busy, and spend time with family of eight adult children, 12 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.

It was during physical activities that he started feeling pain below the bottom of his breastbone, but he did not think it might have something to do with his heart. He’d been taking care of his wife Ruby, who was diagnosed with dementia and had also suffered a stroke.

“I thought ‘Why would I have pain down there?’” he said. “I thought maybe it was an ulcer from stress.”

After the pain persisted for three months, as Christmas-time approached, Seals and his health care team started looking into what might be going on. He’d had a stent put in one of the arteries to his heart in 1998 and his cardiologist recommended putting in a new stent, to be sure the artery was open for blood flow.

During the procedure at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center, though, the doctors found that there was significant plaque buildup in all three of the major blood vessels to his heart and when Seals woke up, he was told he would need a quadruple bypass – open-heart surgery.

The cardiac surgeon at Samaritan Heart Center discussed Seals’ heart health and the surgery with him and let him know she would be able to perform the surgery the next morning.

“I had complete confidence in her,” Seals said. “The process was just fantastic. They kind of talk you through it and keep you relaxed.”

Background image: Roger getting ready to take his boat out.

Symptoms of angina – chest pain that happens because there is not enough blood flowing to part of the heart – can often feel like pressure or squeezing in the chest, very much like a heart attack. But Seals’ experience of pain below his breastbone is not uncommon.

Angina pain can present in a lot of different ways. Sometimes it is not quite as severe, sometimes it can be felt as a tightness in the chest, or even can feel like gastrointestinal pain or back or shoulder pain. What is consistent with stable angina, the kind Seals had, is what brings it on. Physical activity can be a trigger and Seals’ experience of having the pain during physical activity, but then the pain going away when he rested, was a clue that plaque may have built up in his arteries, blocking blood flow to his heart. Unstable angina can happen even while resting, the pain can be strong and long lasting and can signal an impending heart attack. Someone experiencing these symptoms should see their doctor right away.

Once it was determined the surgery was necessary, the hope was to get Seals home in time for Christmas.

Everything went well and several of his eight adult children visited and stayed with him in the hospital and helped speed his recovery.

Background image: Roger and crew heading out to go fishing in Yaquina Bay.

“I feel great, I don’t have that shortness of breath anymore. I can do everything.”

~Roger Seals

“He was very motivated to get better and had a very supportive family,” said Cardiac Surgeon Billie-Jean Martin, MD. “We did everything we could to get him home for the holidays.”

He was ready to be discharged from the hospital by Sunday, Dec. 24, and made it home for Christmas Eve. The holiday was admittedly different than previous Christmases, with Seals recovering from major surgery, but it was special nonetheless, with the house full of family and friends.

“Having him here at home was all the Christmas we really needed,” said his son Roger Lee Seals.

Daughter Sandy Wang was the primary caregiver at home for Seals as he recovered from heart surgery and stayed close by for more than three weeks. She appreciated help from her sister, Susan Whitacre.

“She helped a lot,” Wang said. “And she spent the night several times when I needed a break.”

Background image: Roger navigating his boat out into the bay.

Seals is happy to be back to his active routine.

“I feel great,” he said. “I don’t have that shortness of breath anymore. I can do everything.”

This is the kind of thing Samaritan Heart Center surgeons like to hear.

“He was a great patient,” she said. “We were happy to be able to get him back to everything he wants to be doing.”

Seals is happy to have such good health care available so close to home at Samaritan Heart Center.

“I got fantastic care,” he said. “Everything that I needed. They took care of it and it was just a great experience. I don’t like hospitals, don’t get me wrong, but I’d recommend it to anyone.”

Samaritan Heart Center provides a wide range of advanced cardiology, cardiac surgery and electrophysiology (heart rhythm) services to patients of our region. To learn more about Samaritan Heart Center, visit samhealth.org/Heart.

Background image: Roger smiling on the docks at Yaquina Bay in Newport.

Roger is happy to get back to everything he loves after heart surgery.

Roger taking his boat out on the bay.

Roger heading out on the water

Roger getting ready head out on his boat.

Heart Surgery Reroutes Blood

In a coronary bypass surgery, a healthy vein is taken from elsewhere in the body and used to reroute blood around clogged arteries.  This improves blood flow and oxygen to the heart.

Know Your Heart Risks

Age, family history, blood pressure, cholesterol, smoking, diabetes and weight are heart disease risk factors. You can take a quick heart disease risk assessment to better understand your risk factors.

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