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Patient story: Captain Frank Ross

Captain Frank Ross shares his story of his coronary artery double bypass. You can download his entire story below.

I am 73 years old and have always been a healthy and very active person who never had any concerns about my heart health, until 4 years ago.

All my life I have been involved in sporting activities, including running and swimming in particular. I became a volunteer life saver when my son and I decided to join our local surf club mainly to help my two granddaughters learn to swim in the Nippers at our local surf club.

As part of the training for the Bronze Medallion we had to do a lot of swimming in the ocean and running on the beach. It was during this training period that I started to realise that I I wasn’t achieving the same results as I had before and I started to get a tight feeling in my chest – not any pain, just a tightness, which would go away when I rested.

This also started to happen when I was riding my bike to the beach or running around the beach. I had never experienced anything like this before, and (probably like many of us) l thought I was bullet proof and it would go away.

I put up with this for about a month, but it was not going away. I made an appointment with our family doctor the next day.

That is when my world suddenly changed in a flash.

My doctor did an ECG and immediately rang a heart surgeon that she knew at the local hospital and told me I had to go immediately to ICU. I was still feeling fine so I drove home and told my wife I had to go and we packed a bag and headed off.

When I walked into the ICU ward, carrying my overnight bag with my wife alongside me, the hospital staff were amazed – I don’t think they had ever experienced an ICU patient walking in before!

Dr Peter Larsen organised an angiogram for the following morning. As he started to process the angiogram, he immediately stopped the process and rang a heart surgeon in Brisbane and booked me in for major surgery the following morning.

I had a 97% blockage of blood flowing into my heart which needed immediate attention. Amazingly, I was still not experiencing any pain. I was transported to Brisbane by ambulance and met the surgeon, Dr Trevor Fayers, just before I was about to go into the operating theatre. I told him that I had never been inside a hospital for any operation for over 50 years. He assured me I would recover well from the operation, mainly because I was fit.

So, off I went, waving to my wife and kids as I headed down the corridor to the operating theatre. The next thing I remember was seeing my family in the recovery ward the next morning. They were as pleased to see me as I was to see them and I was not feeling any pain. The surgeon had carried out open heart surgery and performed a coronary artery double bypass. Apparently this type of heart condition is known as ‘the widow maker’. Several high-profile sports people have died from this because, just like me, they felt no pain and did not have a heart attack.

Six days later, I was released from the hospital and my wife drove me home. She nursed me through those early days of recovery and made sure I followed all the post-op procedures. Then, after six weeks of cardiac rehabilitation, I was back feeling as good as new.

Six months after the open heart surgery and at the ripe old age of 70, I achieved my Bronze Medallion with my local surf club in the morning and did my first patrol with my son that very afternoon, sitting in the patrol station on the beach. A very proud moment indeed!

Captain Frank Ross and his son on patrol

The Highway To A Healthy Heart – by Captain Frank Ross