Coronary artery disease is a condition usually associated with aging. Erwin
Fajardo was only age 34, however, when he was diagnosed in 2001 with a
blocked right coronary artery. This artery supplies blood into the right
ventricle – the lower chamber of the heart that pumps oxygen-poor
blood to the lungs.
“I was feeling lightheaded and nauseated, so I decided to lie down
and rest,” he recalls. “When the feeling didn’t go away,
my wife Cecilia took me to our local hospital in Hayward. My cardiologist,
Dr. Steven DeGalan, performed an angiogram and found the blockage. He
also works at Washington Hospital in Fremont, where I was transferred
to have the stent inserted into the blocked artery. After that, I didn’t
have any problems at all until last September.”
The Fajardos had spent a good portion of last summer hiking around Zion
and Bryce Canyon National Parks in Utah, and he reports feeling just fine
throughout those excursions. Then, at home on his 48th birthday, he suffered
a bad headache. Two days later he went for a walk and once again experienced
lightheadedness and nausea. His wife took him to the hospital in Hayward
where he stayed overnight.
“His blood tests showed no sign of a heart attack, and a stress test
showed no problems, so they released him from the hospital,” Mrs.
Fajardo notes. “He was lightheaded off and on for the next month.
We thought maybe it had something to do with his medications. I finally
asked his doctor to be an advocate for my husband.”
The problem was not his medications. A coronary angiogram performed at
Washington Hospital discovered multiple blockages in arteries leading
to the heart.
“They told me the artery leading to the right ventricle was 100 percent
blocked, and four arteries on the left side were also about 95 percent
blocked,” Mr. Fajardo says. “At the time, I was on a blood-thinning
medication, so they decided to take me off the medication and have me
wait several days to perform quintuple bypass surgery.”
Dr. Shashank Jolly, the cardiothoracic surgeon who performed the surgery
at Washington Hospital, explains that Mr. Fajardo’s serious coronary
artery condition was unusual for a man his age.
“Mr. Fajardo doesn’t have diabetes, and only has mild high
blood pressure and cholesterol levels,” says Dr. Jolly. “He
had not done anything wrong – he ate a healthy diet, he exercised
regularly, and he was slim. The problem was he had developed coronary
artery disease prematurely – his coronary arteries were aging faster
than his chronological age, as evidenced by the need for having a stent
inserted when he was just 34.”
A family history of early heart disease also may have been a factor. Mr.
Fajardo reports that his father was in his 40s when he had a type of heart
Waiting to undergo major surgery can be a daunting experience, but the
Fajardos note that Dr. Jolly and the rest of the staff at Washington Hospital
helped put them at ease.
“We met Dr. Jolly on the day the angiogram was performed,”
says Mr. Fajardo. “He explained the results of the angiogram and
the need for bypass surgery, as well as all the risks involved with surgery.
He also said that if there were any additional problems that he discovered
during surgery, he would fix them, too. He answered all our questions
and was straight to the point. He came to see me every day while we were
waiting for the surgery.”
The open-heart surgery lasted about 10 hours.
“Dr. Jolly did his very best to put our family's mind at ease,
even given the seriousness of the situation,” says Mrs. Fajardo.
“The most significant thing that stood out was his confidence and
meticulousness during surgery. He took time to perform the surgery as
perfectly and as safely as possible. And when the hours passed by, he
always took time to assure us that this was the reason why. Dr. Jolly
constantly updated us during surgery and prepared us for what to expect
within 24 hours after surgery. He even assured us that he would be available
anytime if anything happened since he was only two miles from the hospital.
“I observed Dr. Jolly during my husband's stay in the Coronary
Care Unit and he was very hands-on not only with my husband, but also
with all of his patients,” she adds. “His interactions with
patients and their families, as well as with the nurses, were wonderful.
He is calm, very professional, caring and always has a smile on his face.
Our family is so thankful and grateful for his service. I’ve never
known a doctor who cared so much.”
After he was released to go home on October 28, Mr. Fajardo decided to
take part in Washington Hospital’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Program,
which offers exercise sessions under the close supervision of an exercise
physiologist and a registered nurse. A cardiologist who serves as medical
advisor to the program also is available as needed. During exercises,
the patient is connected to portable electronic equipment to monitor the
heart rate and blood pressure.
Mr. Fajardo notes he is still attending Cardiac Rehabilitation Program
sessions on Monday, Wednesday and Friday every week. He has not experienced
any episodes of lightheadedness or other symptoms since the surgery. An
Internet network engineer for Oracle, he returned to work on January 5
and started traveling for work again in early February.
“Mr. Fajardo and his family have a very positive outlook, which really
helped with his speedy recovery,” says Dr. Jolly. “We were
all fortunate that he was diagnosed properly and treated effectively so
he could get back to the life he enjoys.”
“I’m still taking aspirin as a mild blood-thinner, and medications
for my blood pressure and cholesterol, but I feel great and I can run
two miles again without any problems,” Mr. Fajardo says.
His wife adds, “We can’t thank Dr. Jolly and the staff at Washington
Hospital enough. As the old saying goes, you can have all the money in
the world, but without your health, you have nothing.”
For more information about the variety of cardiovascular programs at Washington
Hospital, visit www.whhs.com and click on “Cardiovascular”
under the “Services” tab. For information about the Cardiac
Rehabilitation Program, which requires a physician referral, visit www.whhs.com/heart/cardiac_rehab/.