One step at a time: Heart surgery patient shares recovery story

Published: Jun. 30, 2023 at 6:41 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Retirement is supposed to be a time of relaxation and doing what you love but unfortunately for Kevin Sutton, his start of a new chapter wasn’t so stress-free.

“I was a nurse and spent most of my life working in open heart surgery practices. And still, yet this was a very scary moment,” said Sutton.

As a child, Sutton had a heart murmur.

“And he said nothing to worry about, I’ll outgrow it—it’s no big deal. I didn’t,” Sutton said.

As he got older, the problem became more significant

“When I did normal things I would get short of breath. Just walking, going up a couple of steps, and that’s when i realized, ok, this is not just I’m out of shape, so I went to a cardiologist at Lexington Medical Center,” said Sutton.

His wife Denise says he’s always been optimistic.

“He is internally optimistic, very level-headed, has the attitude of you just keep your head down and you go through things and you get the job done,” said Denise.

After several tests and scans, Sutton was told he had to have an aortic valve replacement.

“He asked me, ‘When do you want to have this done?’ This was on a Friday, I said ‘Can you do it Monday?’ He said ‘No but I can do it Wednesday,’ I said ‘Sign me up,’” Sutton said.

But what doctors told him next—was unexpected.

“And while I was in recovery from that, doctor Travis came in [Heart surgeon] and I was not expecting that, and he said ‘You also have coronary artery disease, you need a triple bypass, in addition to an aortic valve replacement.’ That was---I can’t say it was a shock, I guess, but it was a surprise,” Sutton said.

Luckily, Sutton was in good hands.

“We’re focused on the patient, and what we want is the best patient outcomes,” said Dr. Jeffrey Travis.

Travis is a cardiothoracic surgeon at Lexington Medical Heart and Vascular Center who did Sutton’s procedure.

“We performed an aortic valve replacement, so we cut out his diseased valve and a new valve. And then also did a couple of bypasses to his blocked arteries to reroute blood flow around those blockages,” said Dr. Travis.

The hospital was recently recognized with a three-star top rating from the Society of Thoracic Surgeons for heart care.

“Only about 7% to 10% of programs get three stars which is the highest rating you can get, and we’ve been fortunate enough to get it the last two years,” Dr. Travis said.

Sutton is now recovering and says he’s staying active.

“I didn’t sit around, I was up doing stuff all the time right away, " Sutton said.

Sutton says he’s excited to take on new adventures.

“I do everything I did before surgery. And I still get a little short of breath, but I recover in just a few seconds,” said Sutton, “You know I feel great.”

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