Arthur Wayland, from Dade City, Fla., a trucker since 1997, hauls air freight with his wife Tina. The 47 year-old owner-operator had elevated blood pressure and worked hard to quit smoking and lose weight to keep it under control. However, in January 2006, after a routine D.O.T physical showed his pressure was dangerously high, he was referred to a cardiologist and eventually had major bypass heart surgery four months later. He took time to talk to Truckers News about his ordeal and prognosis.
TN: How did you first find out you had heart problems?
AW: I went in for a regular D.O.T. health exam. My doctor said my blood pressure was exceptionally high (185/90) and recommended I go directly to a cardiologist. That cardiologist performed a stress test and an echocardiogram. We scheduled a follow-up appointment for the results of the tests. Unfortunately, I made a very potentially dangerous decision to put off the visit, and it was three months before I actually made the appointment. Do not do that! The cardiologist said I needed an angioplasty based on the test results. My blood pressure dropped to dangerous levels while preparing for the angioplasty and after further investigation they found that two arteries were 95 percent blocked. Angioplasty was out of the question, and I had to have a Coronary Artery Bypass Graft, two arteries. The doctor said I needed the CABGx2 in order to stay alive, and I had it in May 2006.
TN: What were contributing factors to your heart disease?
AW: I had quit smoking three years earlier and did not have a weight problem at the time. However, before that I did have a significant weight problem. When I found out I had high blood pressure, I lost nearly 50 pounds in five months. Other than high blood pressure, there was no family history of heart disease. I do think that my diet and sedentary lifestyle were contributing factors, but I want to make it clear, I am not and will not blame my job or career for my health problems. We all make life choices. We all have choices to make, and we can choose to eat healthy or exercise. My choices are my fault, not the fault of my employer, my career, the restaurants or the fault of the foods I choose to eat. The choices are mine and mine alone.
TN: Describe the symptoms you experienced?
AW: Interestingly, I had no symptoms! I have always been a huge coffee drinker, so my blood pressure ranged in the 140s70s range, and I didn’t realize this was considered high. I should have known this information and taken a pro-active part in finding out about high blood pressure. I take complete personal responsibility about my lack of information.
TN: How did you manage to run your company during this time?
AW: We were running our own authority, and as I remember, it caused a very high level of anxiety in upper management!
TN: How much down time did you have after the surgery?
AW: I went back to driving in August after the surgery on May 18th. My doctors told me, though, that my exceptional attitude, my personal drive and my desire to succeed played a major role in my quick recovery. I was actually out of bed the next day after surgery, I went home 4 days later and was using my chainsaw at home in about 4 weeks (which, by the way, was not a good idea!).
TN: Have you made any diet or lifestyle changes since you’ve been back?
AW: I did at first. I lost a bit more weight, continued to walk and kept feeling better. Unfortunately I have fallen off the wagon. We are working feverishly to get out of debt before the complete failure of our economic system. Therefore, I have chosen to run extreme miles and exercise when I can rather than when I should. It’s very difficult to stick to an exercise program with this kind of pressure.
TN: What did you learn from the whole thing?
AW: In all things, give Praise to God. Enjoy every day and be thankful from the very moment you wake up in the morning. Always tell those closest to you that you love them. Take a proactive part in your health and don’t leave something so important up to someone else.
TN: Do you look at life/work/family differently?
AW: I do! Family and then life now rank at the top rather than work. There is nothing more important than family. Though I always want to succeed in business, I’ll not do it at the expense of family or God.
TN: Did you have any depression after the surgery?
AW: I was told that depression is a common phenomenon after this or any major surgery, but I didn’t experience any depression. Short-term memory loss has been the most notable effect but that is a common after effect of the anesthesia, so they tell me.
TN: How do you feel now?
AW: I feel pretty darned good for the most part. I have gained a lot of weight again, and I know I must find a way to lose that weight. That really causes me to feel bad in many ways. You just have to be in the right frame of mind all the time to stay healthy. It takes a lot less time and work to gain the weight or get out of shape than it does to lose the weight or get into shape.
TN: What’s your prognosis?
AW: Well, I will always have had bypass surgery now. I will always be known as a heart patient. I will always have to report “Heart Disease” on any health questionnaire. They tell me that because they took the replacement artery from my arm rather than my leg that I was good for 20 years rather than 5-10 years but we’ll see what happens. I will always have to take a statin drug to prevent clotting at the artery graft area and blood pressure medicine has become a way of life. Those drugs cause other medical problems, but the good outweighs the bad. So I’m told.
TN: Do you have to have more frequent medical exams?
AW: Yes, the D.O.T. requires that I have an exam every year now rather than every two years. They also require a stress test or an echocardiogram every two years, and the results must meet certain standards. The company to which we are leased is very strict about getting these tests done and having the results on file in their records office.
TN: Any last words of advice for your fellow truck drivers out there?
AW: You should know that no matter how scary, no matter how fearful you are of a poor or bad diagnosis, you must not let fear control your actions. You must make a decision, on your own, to get healthy. As we age, as we drive for more years, as we allow ourselves to not get the exercise we need, not eat the foods we know we should eat, and not see the doctor as regularly as we know we need to see him, it gets harder and harder to face the growing reality. The longer it is between doctor’s visits, the easier it is to continue not going. A quick and accurate diagnosis is the best path to a quick and complete recovery. Please see a doctor today!