Duane was barely conscious, lying flat on his back for the first three days.
About 60 to 70 friends and relatives, many of them from the Holy Cross Catholic Church in Orlando where Duane and his family worshipped, filled the hospital waiting room as Duane recovered in critical care. Together, they prayed for Duane’s life.
He had survived the heart attack, but he faced yet another life-or-death hurdle. When Dr. Moin removed the Impella, a temporary heart assistance device, would Duane’s heart be able to take over pumping on its own?
The answer, fortunately, was yes. The fact that he was in such good physical shape probably saved his life, Duane said.
But Duane’s heart remained very weak.
For a man who had played sports and worked out his whole life, Duane found it difficult to comprehend that he was having trouble even walking.“ Just sitting up was a big deal,” he said.
After about a week in the hospital, Duane went home. Within a few weeks he started to do what he had done all of his adult life: exercise. He began by walking up and down Snead Street (named for the pro golfer Sam Snead) near his home in Orlando. For a guy who used to run marathons, he was surprised at how tired the short walks made him.
Within a week of leaving the hospital, he was back at his computer again, working part-time for Direct Media USA. A week later, he was back full-time.“ They didn’t want me to return to work so soon, but I knew I had a lot of work that needed to be done,” said Duane, who worked out of his home the first three weeks before returning to his office in downtown Orlando.
Through cardiac rehabilitation, in which his heart is carefully monitored during exercise, he began to rebuild his fitness, little by little. He took 36 rehab classes – three per week over 12 weeks.
But his heart didn’t return to its former strength as doctors had hoped.
One measure of the strength of Duane’s heart is its ejection fraction as shown by a test called an echocardiogram. For a normal heart, the ejection fraction is about 60 to 65 percent. Duane’s ejection fraction was barely half of that, meaning that Duane’s left ventricle was pumping out only one-half the blood that a normal heart pumps with each beat. His doctors had hoped Duane’s ejection fraction would recover to at least 40 percent, but by August it had not – it was still at about 35 percent.
Duane’s doctors decided he needed back up in case his heart started to beat chaotically or too fast. They placed an implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD) under his skin. Connected by a wire to his heart, the battery-powered device would deliver an electric shock to restore a normal heartbeat if Duane’s heart starts beating erratically.
As a result, Duane is careful not to allow his heartbeat to get too high: he doesn’t want to strain his heart or be shocked by his ICD.