Community Memorial

Robotic Heart Bypass Surgery Leads to Swift Recovery

Brian and Sharon Olstinski were winding down a 25-mile bicycle ride along Lake Michigan. With just two miles to go, Brian suddenly felt a burning sensation in his chest.

"At first I didn't think much of it," he said. "Then I started feeling chest pressure, and then a sharp pain in my left shoulder blade. Another 200 yards down the path, the pain was shooting up into my neck and jaw."

Olstinski resisted his wife's urgings to go to the hospital, believing he had just pulled a muscle. "I should have gone to the emergency department right away, but I was only 45 and I just couldn't believe I was having a heart attack."

The next morning Olstinski went to his job in finance, but he was still not feeling well. "I called my doctor's office. They told me to go straight to the emergency room," Olstinski said.

At the Community Memorial Hospital Emergency Department, "they took my blood pressure and it was ridiculously high," Olstinski said. "That's when I knew I hadn't pulled a muscle."

Brian was taken to the Cardiac Catheterization Lab for an emergency angiogram.

"We found that a blood vessel to the front of the heart was severely blocked. The blockage occurred at the branching point in the artery," explained Mahmood Al-Wathiqui, MD, PhD, a fellowship-trained Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin cardiologist. Patients in this situation usually require traditional, open-chest surgery. Fortunately, there was an alternative available at Community Memorial Hospital — minimally invasive, double bypass using robotic surgical tools.

"Brian's blockages were in areas of the heart that could easily be reached using the robotic tools. He was the perfect candidate," said Husam Balkhy, MD, Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin cardiothoracic surgeon. During surgery, Dr. Balkhy formed two new conduits for blood flow to Olstinski's heart. The double bypass procedure was performed through five small holes.

Back on the Path

"My recovery was faster than I had imagined," Olstinski said, going home three days after his surgery. Soon after, he began the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program. Olstinski had exercised regularly, but many bypass patients become more active after their surgery thanks to better blood flow to their heart, said Mark Husband, exercise physiologist. "We help patients gain the confidence to do whatever they want," Husband said.

Before the month was out, Olstinski was cycling the same 25-mile path where he had suffered his heart attack just weeks earlier. Olstinski feels grateful to his entire care team, especially the nursing staff who helped him before, during and after his surgery.

"The care I received at Community Memorial, from the moment I arrived in the ED, has just been phenomenal," he said.

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