Bypass Patient on the Road to Recovery
May 01, 2019 Cedars-Sinai Staff
Jim Calio was having an ordinary day until he walked up a flight of stairs and nearly passed out. A trip to the Smidt Heart Institute revealed that two of his arteries were 70 percent blocked and that he would need triple bypass surgery.
"I was on track for a massive heart attack if I hadn't taken care of this," Calio says.
Today, thanks to at the institute's Preventive and Rehabilitative Cardiac Center, the 70-year-old journalist is energetic and healthy.
"The crazy thing was that a week before I went in the hospital I was working out every day on machines, lifting weights, and I felt great. "It was when I was walking that I said, 'Something's not right.'"
During outings with his dog, Samantha, Calio first felt the shortness of breath that was signaling his heart trouble. But he didn't take the symptom seriously. He knew he had plaque buildup in at least one artery, but he thought he had it under control with cholesterol medications and a healthy diet.
"The crazy thing was that a week before I went in the hospital I was working out every day on machines, lifting weights, and I felt great," he says. "It was when I was walking that I said, 'Something's not right.'"
A crucial element of Calio's recovery was an exercise regimen, which he chose to complete at the Preventive and Rehabilitative Cardiac Center. He could have attended a rehabilitation facility closer to his home, but he wanted to continue working with the Cedars-Sinai staff he trusted.
"They know me, they have my chart and they are very attentive," Calio says.
"If you let it, a [heart event] can become all-consuming. Early on in the recovery, maybe out of fear, you think, 'Gee, I wonder if it's going to be OK? Will I be able to exercise again?'"
The center is outfitted with equipment designed to assist and strengthen the cardiovascular system. Patients in the exercise program wear heart monitors that display their heart rate and rhythm during exercise. The center's team members closely watch the heart rhythm from monitors and advise patients on how hard to exert themselves on the treadmills, stationary bicycles and other equipment.
"My confidence came back right away," Calio says of his experience at the center. "I walked in my neighborhood, too—first without the dog, then with her. I felt great. No huffing and puffing."
Calio has an affectionate nickname for the center: "I call it the Cardio Club."
His dedication to his prescribed exercise and rehabilitation program has been crucial to his full recovery. He is back to his normal exercise routine, including weightlifting, and is planning travel-writing trips such places as London, Hong Kong and Ireland.
"This is a lot of fun, and it's kind of gravy on my career," he says of his travel writing, which he took up after working as a journalist for publications such as People, Newsweek and Life magazines in the 1970s, '80s and '90s. "I'm not going to retire. I'll keep cranking out stories as long as I can."