Last year, 60-year-old Kay Bunker received the gift of a lifetime from her four sons: an all-expenses-paid Alaskan cruise.
She and her daughter-in-law were scheduled to set sail in September, but that departure was threatened when, just four days earlier, she discovered she needed to have heart surgery.
Kay didn’t realize she had any heart problems. She has an active lifestyle and never had high blood pressure or extremely high cholesterol. However, as she looks back on the previous year, she remembers having some chest discomfort that she assumed was acid reflux. The change she did notice was in her level of energy.
“I don’t look or act 60,” says Kay, “but the lack of energy made me feel much older.”
For a woman who enjoyed working out, golfing and a variety of other activities, feeling drained proved to be a problem. It was while climbing a small hill on a golf course that a friend noticed her difficulty and recommended she see her doctor.
Kay’s physician told her she had a blockage and would need surgery to correct it.
With the cruise just days away, she asked him, “Can I schedule it later?” and he responded, “Yes, but you’ll have a heart attack. Do you want to run the risk of having a heart attack on the cruise?”
Needless to say, Kay decided to go ahead with surgery. She tried to cancel her cruise ticket or find someone to go in her place … until her cardiovascular surgeons, Drs. Siwek and Reynolds, suggested that a cruise might still be possible, thanks to minimally-invasive surgery.
The doctors found one artery 95 percent blocked, which they bypassed with the mammary artery and successfully opened up the blood flow through her heart. After seeing how well she was recovering, Dr. Siwek said he’d offer her a physician’s release to go on the cruise.
“Some of my family members thought I was just crazy for even considering it,” Kay says. “But my daughter-in-law is a nurse and the ships have good doctors … and I figured that recovering on the cruise would be better than recovering at home!”
There were a few Alaskan day trips Kay had to cancel, but she did see a logging demonstration in Juneau and took a tram to the top of a mountain where she did some walking.
“It was better than laying in bed at home!”
Having minimally invasive surgery was “one of the best things that’s happened to me,” says Kay, who was back at her job and enjoying her workouts within a month of her surgery. “For those who can have heart surgery this way, it’s the only way to go,” she adds.
“I feel as good as I have in years. I’m going to be 61 this month and I feel great.”