Back on the Road After Heart Surgery
Jul 16, 2017 Cedars-Sinai Staff
For years, James Colvin refused to have a needed heart surgery because the first doctor he saw told him, in Colvin's words, he would be "a dead man."
A disabled Vietnam veteran, James was eventually referred by the Veterans Administration to Dr. Alfredo Trento, director of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Cedars-Sinai.
"I agreed to the surgery because when I asked him 'what is my chance of survival,' he told me 99%," James says. "I went from a dead man to 99%. When I got home, I looked up his name on the internet, and learned this man is a master and an icon. Then 99% of my fear left my body. He saved my life."
James first sought help when his heart was frequently pounding hard and he was having difficulty walking short distances. It even put a damper on one of his favorite pastimes—riding his motorcycle.
"I couldn't walk 20 feet without feeling like someone was beating me in the chest with a 5-pound sledgehammer and I was out of breath," he says. "I could barely make it from my car to my front door."
His mitral and tricuspid valves were leaking, and he needed surgery to repair them. After hearing the high risk, James didn't want to have the surgery. But meeting Dr. Trento changed his mind.
"I went from a dead man to 99%. He saved my life."
The mitral valve was replaced and the tricuspid valve was repaired during open-heart surgery.
James spent 7 days in the hospital. During that time, Rosa Kassaseya, a clinical partner, saw him every night and took special care to make sure he was covered up and warm.
"She was better than a mother," he said.
James made Circle of Friends donations in Rosa and Dr. Trento's names to show his gratitude.
Today, he says this is the best he's felt in 20 years. He began walking 5 to 7 miles a day, and is no longer plagued by the shortness of breath or heart palpitations that were slowing him down.
He's back on his bike every day weather allows and has been able to get back to the long treks he loves, riding as far as San Diego, Arizona, and Oregon.
"It's a getaway," he says.
James is a grateful patient and supporter of the Campaign for Cedars-Sinai. Learn more about the Campaign.
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