The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

February 15, 2013

Surgery saves heart patient’s life

By Sandy Scarmack
Herald Staff Writer

SHARON — Gary Hudspeth thinks he’s only alive because he had the good fortune to collapse near Sharon Regional Health System.

The 68-year-old Cortland, Ohio resident was out enjoying one of his favorite  hobbies - restoring and showing vintage cars - at the annual Father’s Day car show in Hermitage when he fell to the ground.

“I just couldn’t stand up anymore. I don’t know what happened. Here I am thinking I am the healthiest guy in the world and I just went down,” he said.

Taken by ambulance to the emergency room at Sharon Regional Health System, Hudspeth soon learned he was far from being “the healthiest guy in the world.”

He had three blocked arteries and doctors weren’t able to get the arteries open, he said. “They told me I had to go into surgery right now. And they told my wife I had about a 10 percent chance of surviving,” he said.

Dr. Marrone performed a triple by-pass surgery, taking 50 inches of veins from his leg and replacing the clogged arteries feeding his heart.

The heart trouble wasn’t the only bad news Hudspeth got that day.” I also found out I’m diabetic,” he said. “And they said I had a heart attack before, but I didn’t know it.”

After his surgery, Hudspeth said he didn’t wake up for 12 days. “It wasn’t that they were trying to keep me down, I just didn’t wake up and I guess that isn’t too uncommon,” he said.

Just as doctors were getting ready to put a permanent tracheotomy in Hudspeth woke up. “They told me that I said ‘no’ when I heard them talking about it,” he said.

He is happy it took so long for him to awaken. “That way I didn’t have staples in my chest or in my leg. Everyone says that is the worst pain, getting those staples out. Well, mine were already out,” he said.

He said he had excellent care from his nurse, Patty, though he also remembers having some vivid dreams from the medications he was on. “I was very disoriented. I thought I was in New Castle. And so many dreams that seemed so real. Unless you go through it, you don’t really know about it,” he said.

Prior to that day in June, Hudspeth, who retired in 1999 from Packard Electric,  had been actively golfing and traveling and attributed his not feeling well to the heat. “It was so hot. In the 90s. I was playing golf in South Carolina and I flew home, repacked some clothes and took off for another three days of golfing,” he said.

He recalls having to sit up at night to sleep because he had trouble breathing, but “I just thought I was too hot,” he said.

Now, he encourages others to get regular check ups, something he had fallen behind in doing after his doctor retired.

He also encourages others to go to Sharon Regional. “My brother looked up my doctor online. He was amazed,” he said.

“There was a lot of luck involved that day. I was right by an ambulance, right down the street from Sharon Regional and that great group of doctors. If it  happened at home, I wouldn’t have made it to a hospital in Warren,” he said.

“My doctor told me I was the poster child for his practice. I don’t know about that, but I know I wouldn’t be here if not for him and that group of doctors,” he said.

“Seriously. I would recommend that place to anybody,” he said.

Hudspeth returned to Sharon Regional last week to have a pacemaker/defibrillator implanted. He said he needs that in case his heart starts beating irregularly.

Now that he’s following a cardiac diet and a diabetic diet, Hudspeth said he’s lost about 30 pounds, but he’d like to gain some of it back. “I only weighed 155 to start,” he said.