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Successful Quintuple Bypass and Cardiac Rehabilitation Restore Healthy Heart Function for Patient with 'Premature Coronary Artery Disease'

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 valve surgery.

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 and click on “Cardiovascular” under the “Services” tab. For information about the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program, which requires a physician referral, visit