Between the Beats - Michael Morse
Jerome Kuhnlein, MD; Kourosh Baghelai, MD
After years of dealing with different health challenges, including liver problems and diabetes, Michael Morse of Stevensville was experiencing new and troubling symptoms. He noticed that he was gaining a lot of weight due to water retention. He also had a bad cough and felt uncomfortable in general.
After several visits to the doctor and an electrocardiogram (EKG), Michael was diagnosed with congestive heart failure.
For some time, his condition was monitored by cardiologist Jerome Kuhnlein, MD. Before they turned to surgery, Michael worked to build up the strength of his heart through exercise, a healthy diet, and other lifestyle changes. A year passed and his heart got stronger. But during a routine check-up, Dr. Kuhnlein noticed something didn’t look quite right.
Michael was sent to the heart catheterization lab where he met cardiothoracic surgeon Kourosh Baghelai, MD. There, Dr. Baghelai discovered a life-threatening 90% blockage in one of Michael’s arteries and an 80% blockage in another. Such serious heart attacks are sometimes called “widow makers.”
Beating heart surgery
Because of where the blockages occurred, Michael could not have stents placed in his heart. Instead, he needed open heart surgery. In addition, due to a pre-existing condition with his liver, Michael could not be placed on a heart lung machine, which circulates blood and oxygen while temporarily stopping the heart during surgery. Instead, Dr. Baghelai and his team had to slow down Michael’s heart and operate between beats.
“It takes a special hand like Dr. Baghelai’s to do something like that,” said Michael.
During the surgery, Dr. Baghelai cleared the blockages and replaced a vein. The next day, Michael had a second surgery to ensure that bleeding to his lung, caused by a previous liver condition, was under control.
“I can’t say enough about all the nursing staff at Lakeland, and how special they are,” said Michael. “My second surgery was the hardest. When I woke up that night, very agitated and not myself, Pansy, a nurse who worked nights, was right there. She held my head in her arms and stroked my hair to calm me down.”
“Medical procedures are not anybody’s idea of a good time, but I love going to Lakeland and I have confidence in the doctors and nurses,” he added.
A healthier outlook
Along with his heart, Michael’s other conditions are being managed well. Overall, his heart rate has improved, and the amount of blood his heart pumps is now within the normal range for men his age. His blood pressure has also stayed consistent and stable since surgery.
“Before I knew this was going to happen, I started hiking. I can’t tell you know how important it is to do everything to build your strength,” said Michael. “Exercising and eating properly made my recovery much easier.”
Michael knows that in many ways his previous lifestyle and years of working as a truck driver caught up to him and impacted his health.
“I’m taking it one step at a time and making my health a priority,” he said. “I don’t always feel like going to cardiac rehab or exercising, but I can’t let that stop me. The most important thing is to keep going. If all you can do is walk the length of your house and back, get up and do it. There’s not one single time that I didn’t feel better after exercising. You have to keep working at it. You have to keep going.”
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*photo acknowledgement: Full Circle Cafe