Jerry’s Story: Former Cardiology Nurse Becomes Cardiology Patient

After 40 years working as a cardiology nurse, Jerry Christy ended up someplace he never dreamed he would – undergoing heart surgery.

To Thee And Thee, But Not To Me

Jerry, a Piqua native, has worked in a coronary care unit at Stanford University and an open-heart surgery intensive care unit in Knoxville, Tennessee. Though he had years of professional health care experience, including teaching heart health, he was still shocked to learn that he had severe, four-vessel heart disease. “My cardiovascular surgeon told me I was just a heart attack waiting to happen,” Jerry said following an exercise session at the Upper Valley Medical Center cardiac rehabilitation program.

Family History

Jerry, a medic with the Air Force in Vietnam and a registered nurse graduate from the University of California, said he’d always been healthy and enjoyed teaching people how to take care of themselves. “I also thought that I was practicing what I was preaching, so when I was told in October that I had severe heart disease, I was totally blindsided. I had no idea,” he said.

He said he’d exercised, watched what he ate, and worked to reduce stress for years, though admittedly had slacked off some the past few years. But, he added, heart disease runs in the family. His father and brother have undergone heart surgery.

Signs Of Trouble

His heart issues were found in the fall of 2014 when his wife, Kathy, told him he was yawning a lot. He was tired all the time, noticed some shortness of breath, and was fatigued. He didn’t have the more commonly known symptoms of chest and arm pain. “I didn’t put two and two together, even with my background. I thought it was because I was getting older,” he said. 

Surprise Of a Lifetime

After listening to his wife’s concerns, he visited his family physician, Katherine Lorenz, MD. She immediately referred him to Susan Hoying, certified nurse practitioner, and Cass Cullis, MD,of Premier Cardiovascular Institute.

After blood tests, an EKG, and a stress test – all with abnormal results – Jerry was headed to see George Broderick, MD at Good Samaritan Hospital (closed in 2018) and underwent cardiac catheterization.

“I was expecting a stern lecture from him because in the last few years I had not taken as good care of myself,” he said. “I was expecting a stern lecture that I was having the beginning of heart disease and needed to take better care of myself.”

The doctor’s news left Jerry “totally shocked” and in surgery in a couple of days. Only a week had passed, from his visit to Dr. Lorenz to the surgery. “I am very fortunate to have these people that took good care of me,” he said. “They saved my life.”

When in California, Jerry helped launch a hospital cardiac rehab program. When he entered the cardiac rehab program at UVMC in December he found a well-qualified staff. He continues to visit cardiac rehab three days a week. “They are very keen to watching the patients while doing their exercises. It is a good program. Patients are in excellent hands here.”

Heart Disease Can Happen To Anyone

Jerry, who had never been a patient in a hospital until October 2014, said events moved so quickly once his heart issues were found that he had difficulty processing the experience. He’s still surprised by how his life turned upside down.

“I thought I was taking care of myself over the years. I didn’t think it would be me. I just am very thankful that I am here. I think I was in God’s hands,” he said.

From his experiences, Jerry said he continues to believe what he preached for years. “You still have to take care of yourself. Even as we grow old, we have to continue to exercise, eat correctly, manage our stress,” he said. “Our bodies were given to us by God and we have a responsibility to take care of our bodies, not to take them for granted.”

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