Episode 13

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Published on:

11th Apr 2023

Four open-heart surgeries to repair seven valves and several aneurysms helped Bill Wingate sharpen his faith and enjoy his bourbon- 13

Bill Wingate will always hold on to hope, faith, and his bourbon. Thanks to his incredible community of friends and his wife, Martha, he has endured a medical journey few take and he has kept his humor in the process.

In 1997, while a student at Auburn University, Bill began to experience issues in his neck. He went to see a doctor who heard a heart murmur and sent him to a cardiologist. Soon thereafter, he underwent his first open-heart surgery for the Ross procedure to repair his aortic valve at University of Alabama Birmingham.

In 2013, another valve and an aneurysm.

In 2014 and after 15 months after the second surgery, he had developed an infection from having a cavity filled at the dentist. His pulmonary valve had failed as well as his tricuspid.

In 2019, another surgery.

And then again, on January 12, 2023, he had another patch put on an aneurysm.

Thank you, Bill, for sharing your story.

Website: The Heart Chamber (theheartchamberpodcast.com)

Transcript: Joyful Beat | The Heart Chamber (theheartchamberpodcast.com)

The Heart Chamber (@theheartchamberpodcast)


Thanks to Michael Moeri for being my right hand man. Michael Moeri - Audio Editor, Podcast Producer and Marketing Director

Transcript

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Boots Knighton: Hello, and welcome to episode 13 of the Heart Chamber. I am your host, boots Knighton on the program. Today I interview Bill Windgate from Alabama. Bill is a four-time open heart surgery survivor and thriver. His story is long and wide ranging. So many nuggets of wisdom and important information. I appreciate Bill coming onto the show today so much, and for him sharing his story with us.

And part of the story is a cautionary tale about a visit to the dentist. So let's get to it.

I am just honored you wanted to come on my podcast and share your story. I feel like anytime I get to spend time with another heart warrior, it's so healing and the, just the power of validation when

someone [:

it's everything.

Bill Wingate: and I, I know in pa in the past I have

looked, for different podcasts and different resources just to listen to other stories. And there hasn't been much out there. And it was, it was a couple days after I got home from the hospital after this last surgery and that you had just launched your podcast.

and I was like, okay, this is kind of cool. And so I started listening and I was very intrigued. And, so I've enjoyed all of 'em. They've been, they've been very, I've learned a lot that I did not know, uh, I did not know a whole lot about myocardial bridging, before this. But, now I know I know more.

I still don't, I'm not an expert in that field. I try to be an expert in what's going on with me, but it's another, it's another issue that I was unaware of. but the awareness of there's so much to get, so much more than getting cracked open and fixed and sent on your way. and which that is part of it, but there's more that goes into it.

hat you can, I think you can [:

Boots Knighton: . And for you to have been through four open

heart surgeries,

Bill Wingate: And the trauma of that has really hit home after this last one.

and I think it's a, I think it's a point of our, where we are in, in our life, and, uh, I'll circle back to that in a little while, but that's, it's, it's really pushed us to a little bit more in a lifestyle change. which is, which is, which is good. and we're, we're very blessed to be able to make the changes that we're, that we're currently making.

and when I say a we, it is, it, it is my family. It is, it is my, it my my Rock, which is Martha. she's the one that runs everything. I run, I, our joke is she runs me, but I run, run the house. because, uh, cause I've always had a much more flexible job than she does.

u want me to start and let's [:

Boots Knighton: Wow. that was a great introduction. let's start at the beginning at, I find chronological order is helpful. and we'll, we'll take it

from there.

Bill Wingate: Perfect. and so I was a junior in college at Auburn University in southeast Alabama. and. I was probably, I, I was not in the best health of my life, but I was the most active I've ever been in life. I was running a couple miles a day with my college roommates. We were having a good time.

Typical college. We had a good time. Lemme just call it We had a good time. We didn't shy away from a good

time. I don't usually shy away from a good time now, so I mean, some things stay the same. And, so, but I, we were ho I was home for spring break. I did not go anywhere and I'd had this pain in my neck, which is kind of funny to say, but, all week long and it has not gotten better.

this pain in my neck. And so [:

Like, never heard that before in my life. so I'm sitting there at 20 years old at the time, and, he was like, you've got a really, really, really loud heart murmur. One that almost like pushes me outta the room and sucks me back in. I was like, I've never heard that before, but okay. He said, L I want before you go back to school next week, I wanna get you in with a cardiologist. Okay. So I'm there for an, an issue with my neck, and now we've gone on to, who wants me to see a cardiologist pretty soon.

Okay.

All right.

Boots Knighton: and Bill, let me, let me ask you a question. Can you, do you remember what that neck pain felt

like

Bill Wingate: It felt like a, just, I, I slept on it wrong, or I just, outta w just outta whack is the best way I can describe it. And I'd had 'em before, but usually they resolve themselves in 24 hours. You take some Tylenol or Advil and. It goes away. This wasn't that. and looking back on it, we don't think that was related.

but needless to say, [:

even more than my regular doctor. I mean, she I was just struck by that, but I'm also 20 years old and had not seen a ton of doctors. But even comparison to today, she was pretty thorough. I did not enjoy her personality at all. and she was not gonna be a long-term cardiologist for me. I knew that from the first 10 minutes in the room.

so, but she did that. She, she looked at it and said, I hear the murmur. It's really bad. I really think. Before we let this get outta hand, you need to have a transesophageal echocardiogram. I said, okay, tell me about that. And so I did. And she was like, I'm gonna see if I can get somebody here at the hospital to do it like this afternoon.

This is a Friday afternoon, keep in mind of a spring break week. And I'm thinking, okay, this is getting to be a little more concerning.

So I go [:

So we went back that they did a transesophageal or a T e e, that afternoon, and they woke me back up. It was, they didn't give me much to knock me out. And I did, I still remember the pr, the procedure and I'm not a fan of them at all. so they immediately said, you've got, a very leaky aortic valve.

And we feel like it needs to be replaced as soon as humanly possible, preferably over this weekend or Monday.

And so

my dad

Boots Knighton: my

Oh my gosh. And remind me, you were in college, but what exact

age

Bill Wingate: I was tw I was laying on this, this table, after a te at age 20.

Boots Knighton: 20.

And I'm just thinking about when I was 20. I mean,

n not many of us have coping skills at that

age.

rom divorced parents and all [:

But so all of a sudden, within about three or four days, we've gone from fairly healthy to needing heart surgery

and they want to do

it like over the

weekend.

And I was

Boots Knighton: Mm-hmm. .It was

emergent.

Bill Wingate: It was emergent.

My dad said, okay.

I appreciate your information, but we will not be doing it that fast. I feel like this has all come on in the past couple days. We need to get a second opinion on the And

Boots Knighton: Mm-hmm.

Bill Wingate: so that's how we left it on that Friday. And so of course we all started my, my dad and his colleagues and friends and all that.

We started figuring out what, who was the best person to see, who would be a good cardiologist to go get their opinion on and everything. So we found a guy, uh, we didn't find a guy. Um, he well known in our community, wasn't the most convenient for me, but a guy named Michael Simpson, who I loved. And so we went I took all my films.

ic, aortic regurgitation and [:

I do not

believe

Boots Knighton: Did you have a bicuspid

valve?

Bill Wingate: No, I do not. I have a, I have a solid tri

that's,

but I have, I have a

solid, they were normal with the exception of very, very leaky. So he agreed that it needed to be done. Um, he agreed with the diagnosis and said it, does need to be done. I don't think it's something that's going to change significantly if you've made it 20 years. I don't see why you can't wait a couple of months to least get you to a summer break or something, and where this is not being thrown at you within a couple of days.

So we were very thankful for that and that at that point we started asking questions, where should we do this? Who should do it? And he immediately said, at the hospital he's affiliated with, we got a great guy here he is excellent. I trust him. He says, but the best with an aortic valve in the southeast right now is a guy here in town at UAB B named Alpac Pacifica.

And he was a character like no other.

He,

Boots Knighton: When UAB B for

our

listeners, [:

Alabama.

Bill Wingate: at Birmingham.

It is located in Birmingham, Alabama.

Whereas the other school, the University of Alabama is in Tuscaloosa. It's about an hour drive. and it's, but their medical school and their medical campuses all here in Birmingham.

And so he said, Dr. Pacifico's, as good as it gets. Um, he's, and he warned me straight up, he said he's a little different and he says he likes to do seven to nine cases a day. I was like, okay, I need some more information on this. And he says he's, he does it very different. He's got tiny little hands and they are some of the smallest hands I've ever met.

t for that summer, so June of:

Pacifico, on a Sunday because that [00:10:00] was the day I was to be admitted to the hospital and surgery was gonna be on a Monday morning. And we talked to him and my dad flat out said, okay, you've given us two options here. One is we can put a mechanical valve in. We go on this. Got a really good shelf light.

I mean it, it's got a, a chance of running forever. but there are maintenance medications you gotta take every day. You gotta take blood thinner. He said, you've also given us an option of what. A thing called the Ross procedure, which is where they go in and they cut out my aortic valve and put it in the trash and cut out my pulmonary valve and install it in the aortic slot and give me a human donor pulmonary valve.

cines after really the first [:

And he said, I think that's the best case for his, for his age. He says, there is a really good chance that we will have to come back in, in about 15 years to replace a valve because that that donor valve is only gonna last that long. When we move the move, move the valves around it, they could be the problems.

oss procedure on late June of:

I this is hard. I've got friends that are going on nice big vacations and trips all around the place. And here I am laying in a hospital about to get cracked, as I jokingly say, sliced, diced, and fixed. And so that's where we were. So I had my come apart. They gave me some medicine to relax and I actually got some really good sleep, [00:12:00] the night before.

And we went ahead and had the surgery the following morning. They described it as routine, nothing. I mean, it was perfect. everything went well. I was in and on and I on bypass like less than 45 minutes. the whole time working on my chest was less than 40. So I mean, the guy was good. He was quick.

And so, I mean, as a 21 year old, I recovered pretty well after that. I picked right back up. I went back to college in late August. a little bit slower. just getting back into things. and I remember, me being me, um, I was like, so I looked at the surgeon beforehand and I said, I need one thing out of this.

I said, I need a letter from you. When this is all said and done. That gets me the good parking on campus where I don't have to go to the big parking lots anymore cause I'm not doing. He laughed and said, I can. He said, not a problem. because I was a business major and there was a, there was a parking lot right behind the building that you had to be a graduate student.

exemption, I said, you know [:

And I remember

go,

Boots Knighton: for you.

Bill Wingate: I mean,

sometimes you

gotta use this to your advantage. I don't do it often, but sometimes

you.

do.

Um, I remember going into, cuz it was a medical exemption, I had to go into the health center on campus, which was a great, great, I mean a great place.

And the nurse that was at the desk says, I know this letter says you've had open heart surgery, but there's no way a 21 year olds I said, let me call you on that. And I pulled up and showed her the scar and she was like, well, how quick can I feel this sign, this form?

Um,

Boots Knighton: huh. Wow. They, they couldn't say that this

day

and age.

Bill Wingate: No, they couldn't. They would just have to go with it. But it was, I vividly remember her, saying so, and then I, then she had to go get the doctor that was, ran the center to, for him to see it and listen. And he wanted to listen longer. And I was like, dude, I just want this perform sign.

hear, cause I still ended up [:

So after that, life went right back, we jumped right back into life. we went in, um, went back to college, graduated year and a half later.

Yeah, about a year and a half later. didn't really slow me down. I mean, I, I saw my cardiologist every year had my annual echo. Every three or four years he would throw into a CT scan. That seems to be the favorite here, that they like to do more than MRIs for whatever reason.

I don't mind a CT scan, quick iv, some dye through a machine.

10 minutes

ed up getting married back in:

And he said, you don't really need it, but it's just gonna control the pressure in those [00:15:00] valves. It's kinda like driving your car and overdrive little pill. If you have any reaction to it, let me know. So I jumped on him. That was the only thing I was taking. Okay. No big deal. And me being young and fairly dumb.

and travel. And, and then in:

and

Boots Knighton: oh

we, yeah, my husband and I can too, is really how you cope. It's a coping

strategy and it

works.

ve said it to physicians, to [:

There are more store bots in my chest than the typical porn star. And it gets a reaction of everybody. I mean,

I've

got,

Boots Knighton: So I'll be marking this episode as explicit

Bill Wingate: Sure. You and I haven't even said anything really bad yet. this,

we're still

Boots Knighton: Just be you.

Bill Wingate: Oh, I I

will. so, but we went on life life went on and, um, I was seeing my cardiologist mean every year.

normal stuff. And we got into:

And just to get a good baseline on you and see [00:17:00] what it is, because we do know that there's a chance that we have to replace one of those valves down the road. but they're doing some really amazing stuff. I had not even heard about the valve clinic yet, even though that's the same. It's in, in the hospital, which I had the surgery, but Okay.

I think it was late August of:

And then you meet with a doctor to re review 'em immediately after all your, all your appointments, which I really like getting the information quickly. instead of having to wait. Um, cuz he likes to read this surgeon likes or this doctor likes to read his own scans. and I was, so we met with him and it's, it is, I guess August of late August, early September, he starts going through and he says, [00:18:00] well, it was nice to meet you.

This is what we're doing. This is what your scan showed. he goes, your aortic valve is really, really leaky. and he says, they probably told you, It was gonna possibly be, need to be replaced. And, um, as he's scrolling through these pictures, the, the colors light up. And my wife describes it as, it's like a party going on in this valve with colors coming in and out and various things.

rned. I think it needs to be,[:

And

I was

Boots Knighton: So at this time, your daughter

was

Bill Wingate: she was

five years old, she had just started kindergarten. and we get this news and so we're trying to figure out, okay.

and the way I typically look at things is, okay, they've just given me news that I need to have another open heart surgery. Uh, but it needs to, we need to do it in the next six months. I don't wanna wait six months with this hanging over my head, cuz every decision I make is gonna be, ge is gonna be clouded by that.

started kindergarten. She's, [:

Boots Knighton: Mm-hmm.

Bill Wingate: So We are very blessed because all of our family is here in town as well.

They're not right around the corner necessarily, but they're close. And so Martha called, uh, we talked to our families obviously, but her parents took Mary Hudson, our daughter, and she was like, she's with us until when to, whenever. We'll, we'll make it happen. We'll get her to school, we'll keep her up to date and updated.

Everything will be great. I mean, they just said, don't worry about that. We'll take care of And they did. And she was incredibly blessed by the sweetest, kindest kindergarten teacher that we had a conversation with before. And, beforehand, I let her know exactly what was going on so she could know.

And she was on our emails that Martha would send from the hospital, giving updates out so she choose what information to pass onto her just to let her know that things went are going well and all that. that's kind of what we had planned. At the valve clinic, a guy named Dr. Davies

runs it. [:

So we picked it to do pretty quick thereafter. It was September the 15th, I think it was September the 12th or 15th. The 13th. And so we did, so we went ahead and had it done. it was straightforward. He replaced the aortic root. He replaced the aortic valve. and it was easy in, out, couple hours

on bypass.

Boots Knighton: What did he replace

it with?

Bill Wingate: He replaced it with?

both of 'em are nothing. Nothing's tissue. Va, I mean, they're all. Mechanical type type structures, A mechanical valve. that one was a Medtronic at the time. and it was a Medtronic aortic root.

and it's just

that glorified PVC mesh, fancy stuff they, they used, but it was just a mechanical valve.

t's, we gotta get that under [:

You just have to be smart about it. You have to know your limitations. You have to know you don't need to get hit in the head with a baseball or take a baseball being thrown, hit your leg cuz it's gonna leave you with a bruise like no other. And so I recovered from that pretty well. And uh, we. Just kind of picked right back up.

Her life was, and I took couple weeks, couple six weeks off of work, roughly and slower lifestyle. And Mary Hudson did not miss a beat. she was glad, very glad when I came home from the hospital and I was glad to be home cuz hospitals are not fun places and there's, they're, they are not places for rest.

ke, you look good. I'm gonna [:

Just gotta be smart and not do anything stupid for a while. And, and he's, I had no diet restrictions. I had nothing. He was like, just take care of yourself and. I think you'll be fine. And he said, and as we were leaving, I remember him saying, do you wanna do cardiac rehab? I was like, never done it before.

Probably should. So I did. And that was, that was great. I felt at that age I felt like I was a little young for it. cuz everybody else was older in there and I felt like they were holding me back more than I really wanted to be. But I went through it. I did their two minute walk test. I did their trying to get the right numbers on the treadmill and the bike and I did it.

ood. Travels are picking up. [:

I have no idea what we did for the summer, but went in, I, I can guarantee you, it, it included a trip to Walt Disney World. Cause that that is my daughter's favorite place in the world. And so I'm quite certain it included that after all that was going on. And so we went into the fall for first grade year.

Life is great. and it was early November and I had gone on a trip with my wife down to New Orleans. We had driven to New Orleans. It's a five hour drive from here. It's a town that we love for a short three days because you can get into a lot of trouble and it's a crazy town.

Boots Knighton: And this is just a few

months after surgery.

Bill Wingate: uh, no, this is a year

after

we,

we fast

forwarded a year

We we're, we're,

we are a year,

we are

, we we're just checking the [:

Life is grand. And she had a work trip to New Orleans and I had to tag along and we ate well. We probably drank too much, which is what I, we tend to do there. And we're driving home on a, I don't even remember what day of week of the week it was, and driving home and I just started to feel really bad. Um, like I had the flu or something, and she was over there in the passenger seat making fun of me because she was like, maybe you drank too much last night.

And I was like, okay, I've been there, I've done that. But typically the day after you get better as the day goes on, you don't get worse. She was like, well, it's the first time you've been there on blood thinner and new medicines. I was like, I'm still sticking by it. I think typically you get, you improve as the day goes on.

I may have gone to bed or I [:

So I went over on Mon Monday and he looked at me and said, you look fine. Let's do some blood work. Blood work came back. Perfect. I mean, almost spot on for me. So, okay. So we kind of watched it for a little bit and I'd get better and then I'd come back. And so we spent all of November in and out of my, of different doctors getting blood work done and testing to see if I had mono or some type of hepatitis from a blood product or. Everything. It was just really bizarre. Um, I, but I wasn't going, I couldn't go to work. I wish I wanted to sit and I had no energy. night sweats and something was clearly going on, but we just could not put our fingers on it. And it got to be early after Thanksgiving, early December, I'd gone in to see him again and said, something's not right.

y thing. And he said, I want [:

So before we got to that, I woke up, I, I think on a Thursday morning and or sometime on Thursday, my wife noticed at the top of my sternum, I had a mass that wasn't there. and that was a little concerning. And so we watched that through the day and see if it changed. And, went to bed on Thursday night and got up to go to the bathroom at one point.

And then, I kind of fell in the bathroom and so I woke her up as I hit the wall. And so at that point she was like, something's gotta give, something's completely off here. You should not be getting lightheaded walking to the toilet. That's not normal. So, um, we got up the next morning. This mass was bigger, so we immediately go down to my internist, my regular doctor, Dr.

was like, this is new. It's [:

He I wanna get his take on Okay. So he, they called, we drove over. He took one look at that and was like, I don't like this. This is something's, this is not good. It's some type of mass. It's pulsating. It's not just fluid sitting there because something you need to go to the emergency room. Okay.

All right. So now this Friday, daughter's at school. we've been to seeing two physicians at this point and now we're on the way to the emergency department. And so I show up with this thing right up here and it's gotten to be bigger than a golf ball. Um, you. Help to know that that's something's not right.

, in the emergency room. Cuz [:

They wanted to do their own echo on it. They wanted to play with it. So they did. I did more echoes, more CT scans. They looked at my heart, they looked at everything. And so of course they reached out to the surgeon's office saying, we want y'all to come weigh in on, on this. So they sent one of his nurse practitioners down and she was like, some doesn't look good, but Dr.

Davies needs to see this. Well, we're here. Might as well, I'd hate for him, hate to miss him while I'm here. I might as well get to say hello. And so he blows in the room. I remember it being late on a Friday afternoon or maybe yeah, late afternoon. And he blows in the room and I remember him coming in kind of quick and he says, I can tell you exactly what it's, that is nothing but a massive infection that has built up.

And it says, tact everything that we did last year. And he says, you're gonna get

Boots Knighton: Oh my God.

l Monday for me to go in and [:

And um, I was like, my first comment was, well, damn, that sucks.

So

Boots Knighton: Yeah.

Bill Wingate: I was admitted,

to the fifth floor of the UAB B hospitals, the CV floor.

and our running joke is, is I've spent more time there, as much time there as I have on any trip I've ever taken in my life. I'm up to like 30 some odd days there now. And that's not a lot, but it's still a lot. And so,

Boots Knighton: a lot.

Bill Wingate: and

it's not a fancy floor. They have larger rooms, they have smaller rooms and we've been very fortunate to get the larger rooms.

th of:

Um, I like to have a conversation with people. I don't want 'em just coming in, I've gotta take your blood and want a little bit more than that. So I'm walking the unit talking to everybody and getting to know them. Cause I figure out, well if I'm gonna have surgery, I'm gonna be here for a little while might as well at least know some friendly faces. So Saturday night, going into Sunday, uh, the fluid retention was building faster and faster and, Dr. Davies comes in, midday on Sunday and he said, we're going to replace the pulmonary valve to it. It has completely failed and that is why you're retaining the fluid. He said, so we're gonna push some more diuretics this afternoon.

g in the bathroom peeing all [:

put you on bypass, and then we start doing our work.

He says, my fear for you is, is when I take a saw to your sternum that I, that saw is hitting infection right underneath the sternum. And I don't want it throwing infection anywhere else. He says, so with you, we've gotta take some more time. We've gotta put you on bypass a different way. Before they do it before, before we cut you open.

And so you'll have another scar on your chest underneath your right clavicle. You'll have a nice three inch scar and you can, we can go in and put you on bypass that. Okay. I have no problem with that at this point. I've already been cut open twice. Scars are just, almost fun at this point. I mean, they each tell a and I mean, I've gotta find,

I mean, they're fine.

with that, he says, but I'm [:

He described it under there. He says it, but it wasn't the worst case scenario. He said I had over two hours of just cleaning infection up that I could suck out and. Repair things and try to clean things out before I even started cutting on anything. And he said, that's the only time I've ever had to do, do it.

That to that extent. All right, so that's two hours in and then he starts working on me. And so he goes in and he has to replace the root and the aortic valve, which is what he did 15 months prior. And so he puts all new stuff in, cleans 'em all out, then he has to go over and do the pulmonary, replace the pulmonary valve, which at that time still had the donor, the donor valve was still there.

down cause it wasn't native. [:

I spent. Little more than four hours on bypass, with all the repairs. And I have three, I have four new pieces of hardware in my chest after that surgery

between

the

Boots Knighton: Okay, so let's do a valve count at this point. So

when you were 20,

Bill Wingate: I'm counting two there.

Boots Knighton: start counting

the valve replacements

to there

and then in, and then in:

Bill Wingate: that's number three.

So on in:

five. And then we did a little repair on the tricuspid. I don't count that one. That's just a little,

little,

little patch

shov over

Boots Knighton: That was just like a little, a Little remodel.

as rough. that one was, they [:

they finished up the surgery. I gave them some scares in the operating room, which I like to do. Blood pressure dropping, going into AFib and stuff, they, I mean,

Boots Knighton: Mm-hmm.

Bill Wingate: but they had this idea, and I don't remember them talking about it before the surgery, but Martha says that we did and she had conversations with Dr.

Davies about and they weren't gonna close me up right after the surgery. They were gonna probably, depending on what time they got finished, um, it may be the next morning, but they were gonna go in and have a plastic surgeon come. And make a longer incision on my chest and go into my diaphragm and pull up the momentum.

on, get rid of anything else [:

So

Boots Knighton: sounds like

a great idea.

Bill Wingate: it's, if it is

a, I, I think it was a great idea. However, my

wife does say that when she came into the I C U the night after the, the heart surgery, she's like, her question to them was, so if I got at the right angle above him, could I see in, see the heart beating? And they said we would probably have to remove the basically plastic wrap they had me in.

But yes, you could. I mean, it's not that far down there. You could see it. So the next morning plastic surgeon comes in with the heart surgeon, Dr. Davies, and they do the omental flap. They put me back together, put the sternum wires in there again, and tie me up and get me back out to the I C U. And at this point, the heart had pretty much stabilized and was not giving them any issues other than low blood pressure, which every time they cut into me that that seems to be an issue.

ery. I've still got a lot of [:

It's one of the most unpleasant experiences. thankfully I am, you're still a little medicated. So the care level's not a hundred percent, but it's definitely noticeable

And

I just

Boots Knighton: and you're talking about for our listeners cuz we have, when we have heart surgery, we have

lots of tubes coming out of all kinds of fun places. So you're talking about getting

extubated?

Bill Wingate: at getting extubated?

z you can't. But thankfully, [:

Can't have anything to drink yet. So I said, so what did they do? And I heard the nurse looked at me and said a lot, okay, well that narrowed that right down. so it, it took her a couple of hours during different things for her to tell me everything they did. and as you can see, I'm rather sarcastic and I was being very punchy, very sassy at this point.

But I started the recovery process. Um, and they got me up. They put me in a chair within two hours of having the tube being extubated, which I still find amazing that they do that. and there's enough drugs on, enough pain medicine on board. You really don't care. but it's nice to be in a different position.

a great feeling even though [:

I mean, they wanted me up and walking within 12 hours after I got up to the regular floor. And I was walking. But they decided that I was gonna come home with a PICC line, and I was gonna be on antibiotics for eight to 12 weeks. That was a new one for us,

which means you can't get it wet,

make showering hard.

And,

and they're like, well, you could be, you could be completely normal recovering at home, or you could have a reaction to the medication may make you feel bad. Okay, well, I mean, I don't have much choice, so we're gonna do this and we're gonna do it well. So, surgery was on a Monday. I got to come home on a Sunday.

h all in all is not bad. but [:

and she

got

Boots Knighton: she got

to play doctor. Every kid Scream

Bill Wingate: doctor,

she got to

do it. She got to do the flushes. I mean, and it was one of those things I was very fortunate.

Mine was just a, it was a high powered antibiotic. You did it one time a day. It was a five minute push in the PICC line. So we sat there in the den and did it right before dinner. And, but she got to where towards the end she could actually push the medic medicine in. so I'm very thankful she got to be a, an active part of the recovery for those eight to 12 weeks when it was so rough.

ve to wrap it up every time. [:

And so I had to get my arms ran, wrapped every, every night. But when I took a shower, it is what it's, but I was, I'm still grateful that it, they, that we had the signs and they knew what it was. They knew that how, how we could fix this and how they could get me back to relatively normal or what we, what we were considering normal.

But the change after this surgery was, is we had to change our lifestyle a little bit and we had to adapt to a new normal because now I am very, susceptible. I mean, they, they're really concerned anytime I get an infection about anything, because as we figured out with the infection, it came from getting a cavity filled at the dentist is what it.

Boots Knighton: Okay. That was gonna be my next

question. So what? Wow.

Bill Wingate: It. And, and yes, I did

pre-med and I had been pre-med for

years. I [:

It's just one of those weird things that there's a lot of bacteria in our mouths and them poking and prodding and there's gonna bleed a little bit. It just got So there's not nothing that could really been done, but it is what it is. So that's where it came from. We got it treated. So because of that, that surgery, to this day, I still take antibiotics every day of my life. And so one more pill, but. It is what it is. And

um,

thankfully

Boots Knighton: is that gonna have

to be for the rest of your life?

r higher dosages once a day. [:

so.

Boots Knighton: Wow.

Bill Wingate: Which is just one, it's one more complication, but it's, it's, it's all manageable. You just gotta have, to me, it's gotta have the right attitude and kind of know what your record is and what you, what works and what doesn't work for so, but thankfully I do believe that being on the amoxicillin has kept me from getting sinus infections, which I usually get through your for a year and various things.

one pretty well. We went into:

And he said, I've never had to clean anybody out like that before, but it looks good. Hopefully this will last you forever. So we liked that and he said, but because of this, I have no intentions of releasing you from my service. I want you to come in and do an annual CT scan every year just for me.

Fine. I'm good with that. So:

And people that, friends that we had made were things. And so they were always looking forward to seeing us and we had good conversations and they were, the conversations were moving [00:45:00] beyond just my health cuz we were making a, a rapport and a relationship with them. So we knew what their children were doing and what was going on in their worlds.

ded again. And so we got into:

It can mess with all kinds of things. He goes, he says a little bit of a leak is manageable, but something sizable is not manageable. He said, we just gotta, we have to watch it. So he said, I want you to come back in in a few months and let's do this [00:46:00] again and see what it's done. So we did, he was starting to get concerned at this point and he was like, I don't like it.

is pushing us into middle of:

But a couple weeks before then he calls us and says, there's another new doctor here that has been in town for a while that he says, I wouldn't say he's aggressive, but he's a little more progressive than I am. He's an interventional cardiologist. I want him to look at you and I want him to get his take on it because he sees a little bit more of this than I do.

he sees nothing but zebras. [:

and she was like, we consider Bill being our, our, uh, zebra to us.

And he looked at her deadpan and says, all I see is zebras. So that

irritated

her,

Boots Knighton: Wow.

Bill Wingate: um, that irritated her and, which was kind of funny. It takes a lot to, I mean, she can go to toe to toe with any physician anywhere and because she's got a lot of similar training than they do. And so he said, what I want you to do is I want to do a heart gath and I want us to see what's up there and go in there and look at it from that side and see what we can figure out what's going To this point, I had never had a heart catheterization, never had one.

I had never had

one at this

Boots Knighton: After all

of

this.

Bill Wingate: all

of this.

Never had a heart cath because they could see everything they wanted on a CT

scan and an

echo.

Boots Knighton: Oh, okay. Consider yourself lucky. I consider it like my version of hell.

I've had three and I, I, it's like as close to hell as

I can get.

ad three or four now, and so [:

Just wanted you to walk me through it. And so we made, we made a plan to pick up lunch after church and take it to their house. That way the kids can play. And had this conversation, so he draws it all out and, um, he said, well, I think we've got a great option here. He said, Dr. Ahmed, who you've just met, this is what he wants to do.

He said, I've been working with him for over 10 years at his other hospital, and, he calls me in when it's a situation like this or. Pulmonary valves are big for me as well. And we worked together for years and she, he goes, I love him. And I said, but y'all are so opposite. He talks 90 miles an hour. He's like, he's on speed and you're just very cool, calm and collected.

he says, if you're okay with [:

And I said, what are coils? And he said, think of a the spring and a pin. They're a lot smaller than that. They're only about two little turns of that. But we can take those and put them in this little pseudo aneurysm. And the hope is that that will fill it up and help it to thrombo off just like normal blood help it and it will just go away, will become stable and you'll, we won't have any more issues out of that.

watch me and they were able [:

And it looks like it's already thrombosing off or it's not, there's not as much blood flow through it. So we're very hopeful. Awesome. I'm in. So we, that was a si of relief there. We were just kinda like, okay, cool. This is pretty neat. They can do that. So no more major issues with that for a while. And so we did annual scans.

we came back after that. They said they were gonna do an annual scan. They did, and then they did. They said, my surgeon was like, I just don't know that a year's, I've already been burned by you once with an infection. Let's not do a year, let's do six months. Okay. So we did a six month scan and, um, and he said the first one was great.

ection surgery and all that. [:

So I worked from the house. So I went to take a shower about 10 o'clock and I started coughing uncontrolled. And started, ended up throwing up what I thought was blood and we kind of, obviously I freaked out. so I called my wife, she called 9 1 1. And so they come in and they pick me up. They, I call it a pick and scoop and haul me off down to, the emergency room.

ted a problem. Okay? So they [:

The first ambulance ride ever. Can't say I remember much of it, but, They figure out while I'm there that my heart had gone into atrial flutter. not atrial, no, not AFib, but af

flutter. And it is just as similar to AFib. It's just a little bit more regimented, but it's an ultra fast beat. I mean, I remember when they, I got to the hospital, I felt like I had been running for a couple of hours at this point. So they figure it out and they immediately put me on some rhythm drugs, arrhythmia drugs, and it converted back to normal. And so my surgeon looked at me and he was, he came up to the intensive care unit and he looked at me and he says, dude, twice in one week, I mean, what gifts.

So I had some choice words that I'm not gonna repeat here.

to see if we can figure this [:

We're not gonna wait six months, we're not gonna watch it to see what happens again. He says, you're ticking time bomb as it is. And we're, this is, we're taking this off the Okay. I like the way he was thinking about that. So I spent the night in icu and an ICU with not heavy drugs is not a cool place to I had no pain meds on board. I had no sleeping meds. One of the worst nights of my life. but, so they got, got sent home, I think the next day or the following day, went straight to, got into the electrophysiologist shortly thereafter, did the ablation quickest, I mean, in and out of the hospital from the time we parked in the parking deck to back in the car in four hours.

I mean, it was that easy and [:

we, something we do consider and we always think about it. So we got that situated and all went well. And so we made it about another year. So now we're in November of 20. Covid is in its prime. and just before Covid, we had decided to buy a Peloton bike. And so it was a Sunday afternoon, I decided to do a ride.

And Martha, my wife, is at home and I had chosen a hard ride. because that's generally, that's generally how I operate. Let's, let's either go real simple and listen to the music or let's do something challenging. so I did two-thirds of the way through. I started getting lightheaded and she happened to come in and check on me and she could tell I was off and I just said, something's not right.

So we stopped the ride and she helped me get off the bike cuz I couldn't get off by myself with being clipped in. And as she's helped me down, I passed out. And I remember coming to, and she's on the phone with nine one one saying he just passed out extensive cardiac history.

So [:

And here we are to the emergency room yet again. And this time because of the relationships we had been building, we had, one of the nurse practitioners that we had become really good friends with and our, and, and our phones. So Martha calls her and says, this is what's going on, and they're taking him to the emergency room at UAB B.

And she says, I've got it from here. They were, by the time we got there, which was seven, eight minutes away, they were waiting for me.

I mean, it was fast tracked to a room.

They

Boots Knighton: have been.

Bill Wingate: well, I mean, but this was in the midst of Covid. So people, patients are in

there and I was thinking, how long am I gonna have to wait?

s, Lasix, lots of drugs, all [:

My pulmonary valve had failed

and was just again,

and, was just creating some problems.

So at this point, they decided they could go in and deploy a pulmonary valve with a, with a catheter. And so they can just slide it in and we sh I should be good to go.

So

Boots Knighton: So this is valve replacement

Bill Wingate: number six. And we had just, and that they used Hardcast number three to do that.

So I do say that's a much better way than being sliced and diced. straightforward. Lay on the, lay on the bed for a couple of hours and you're in pretty good shape.

So I stabilized really well after that. I think I went home within the next 24 hours after get, after that was situated and stable, and

life was

good.

Boots Knighton: And what, uh, remind me again the

date for this

Bill Wingate: this

:

Boots Knighton: Okay.

Bill Wingate: So,

Boots Knighton: I'm writing, I'm writing down your

timeline with you,

ing so that they placed the, [:

Boots Knighton: Mm-hmm.

Bill Wingate: And so

I was good. We got through the holidays, got through Christmas. It was good. It was fun. Everything was going very well, and Covid is still going on, so this is a new weird pandemic normal. And, but I'm still seeing the surgeon every three to six months for a scan, all depending on how they can schedule 'em and see him. And all of a sudden we got into the summer. So I remember school being out, um, and I just wasn't feeling great. I wasn't, wasn't feeling bad, just didn't have any energy, just something was off. And so we did that for about two weeks and finally I called the surgeon's office and said, I need to come in.

heart related, I think it's [:

I don't know if that's an, I mean, a lot of people are saying, well, I haven't never just volunteered to be admitted to the hospital. I was like, but I didn't feel good. And that was the quickest way to get this, get our, get meeting of the minds.

So it turns

out

Boots Knighton: and I would imagine by this point, sorry to interrupt, but I, I would imagine at this point you're just, I'm, I'm guessing you are at your wit's

end, like, really, is this ever gonna stop?

the previous two surgeries, [:

And I said, I'm, I'm back. And he said, what are you here for? Are you coming to visit? And I was like, Nope, I'm here for my resort stay. And so I told him and they got me situated and lots of blood work. Turns out my hematocrit was below 20, so my blood volume was ex incredibly low. So they hung a couple units of blood that night and I started feeling better.

Iron was way off. Just some things were just completely outta. and we still don't know why that was the case, but it turns out that I am anemic and we have to watch that. And I go through phases where it's better, better than others, but it's still, it's just, it's one more medication. It's just one more thing we have to watch.

ient, but it's still keeping [:

so if we figure that out, I'm feeling better. I'm able to travel again. I'm able to do things and, but we're still watching this pseudoaneurysm every three to five months or however often we're going to see him and. We get to the end of 2022. Last year. I go see it, it had a scan in in August and the surgeon comes in and says, I don't like what I see.

And I said, well, tell me what you see. He said, well, that spot's growing. I said, are we talking a lot? He's like, no, not a lot. But it's gotten bigger since the last one, several months ago. I think we need to do another scan in about four to six months and see what it is. If it continues to grow, we're gonna have to go in and fix it. Okay? So I come home, I share the news and said, well, I think we're gonna do a scan probably sometime in January. And my daughter was like, no, I, I want you, we don't need to wait that long. We need to do it before then. So, uh, she was like, you don't need to wait any longer. I mean, and so she was really, really adamant about this.

So I [:

And he was like, I have no problem with that. And I don't think she's wrong. So I had a scan in December of last year on December the 20th. The surgeon was not in that day because he was at a different hospital operating. but I get a phone call that night from nurse practitioner. Her name is Trina and she is amazing.

And she says, Jamie's looked at your scans. I have looked at your scans. Everybody agrees it's time for us to do this again. But he wants to talk.

Boots Knighton: Oh my gosh.

Bill Wingate: And she says, he said, he told me when I talked to him a little while ago, you tell him when and where to meet you, and he will meet you with the scans and we can, you can talk it over.

And I was like, let's don't [:

This would've been the Tuesday, it'd been the 27th right after Christmas. She goes, no problem. Okay. So would get it scheduled and I sh he, I have was to go at 11 o'clock and I get a text from the surgeon, which I've never gotten a text from the surgeon before. then this is what I think is so remarkable about him.

or. Why don't you come around:

1230. So Martha and I went and got something to eat for lunch, went and met him. Turns out the clinic was closed that day. So he walked over in between cases in, in the OR just to talk to us and to get a plan. And I was shocked at that. And um, so I looked at him, he talked us through what the options were and he said, best case scenario is I go in and I just put a [01:03:00] patch on it.

We're good. Patch should last him forever. He goes, it's all fake stuff in there so it shouldn't be a problem. He says, my fear is there could be some infection that's causing this so we have to clean some more stuff out. He said, worst cases, I'm there nine, 10 hours and have to replace everything. He said, I just don't know until I get in So Martha's wise comment was, so this is kinda like reading a Choose your own adventure book. And he laughed and said, yes it is. so our humorist has stayed with us during this whole process. And so I said, I looked at him and I said, I wanna do it sooner rather than later. I don't want this hanging around.

And he turned to, the nurse practitioner that was in there with us. It wasn't, uh, the one that we love so much, and said, give him, he said, I can't do it next week, but I can do it the following week. And he can move anybody else that's on the schedule and do not put many people on that day. Cause I don't know what I'm getting into.

, we gotta get through this. [:

I mean, at some point you're play and when, when you play with fire, you get burnt.

Um, and I'm thinking, I, I'm just thinking to myself, how many times can your person do this physically, mentally, I mean, this is hard. So I was struggling pretty good going into it, but I, I've done it before. I know how it looks.

ore, they said to be there at:

and yes, at this point when it came to be dinnertime, I walked across the street to the hotel, um, the courtyard across the street from the hospital and had a cocktail sitting at the bar. I figured, why not? You only live life once.

Boots Knighton: Why not? Mm-hmm.

Bill Wingate: so they did the surgery on the 12th.

And they get me to I C U [:

But

Boots Knighton: what did they do in this surgery? They

just repaired

the

Bill Wingate: they went in and they fixed the suit. They put a patch on the pseudo aneurysm and he said there was another spot that he didn't like the way it looked. So he put, it made, got a big enough patch to put over both of them. They're right next to each other. And he had made the decision and h him and um, my wife had talked about it.

They talked mids surgery and that if my pulmonary valve, the one they had put in by catheter, it looks anything less than perfect. He was going to cut it all out and replace it. And so that's what he did. and he said his thought process behind that was, is if I go in and put you a new valve in, mechanical valve in there, if you have an issue later in life, we can go back and put another one in by catheter.

n less than two hours, start [:

I just remember seeing the surgeon walk through the I c the morning after, it was a Friday morning and he was like a kid in the candy shop when he saw that I was awake and sitting up in a chair and he could not wait to get to me to tell me what he did. And then he, he was not coming in to see me, he was gonna deal with another problem patient down the road.

And, um,

Boots Knighton: Another

Bill Wingate: another

zebra

and said, but he was so excited and he came back later in the day and he said, if we can get your blood pressure back up, he said, we, we have this issue every time we've done it. I'm gonna get you onto a floor tomorrow. And I think this was Friday, he said, get you on a floor on Saturday.

I think you'll be home Monday or Tuesday. I was thinking the way I feel right now there, and no way in hell I'm going home on Tuesday, but Okay, I'll take your word for it. I have nothing to argue with you. So the other thing was, the, the problem was, is right after I had that conversation with him, I started getting really sick in the, in, in the icu, which I normally, anesthesia does not make me sick, but it did make me sick.

And I ended up [:

And she stopped me right there. And she said, are you serious? And I said, oh, a nine. She said, you've never told them above a five. During the ones of these I've been a part of. I was like, I'm hurting. So the next thing I know, I, they've knocked me out. They're giving me drugs about every 30 minutes and which was fine, made the time go by faster.

that wanted to talk and, and [:

I got home. It was nice to be home. It's always nice to come home after that. And we started the recovery here. But at that point, right after I got home, things started to set in with me about. I've done this four times now and this has gotten to be really hard. When I started thinking through everything that's gone through and during one of these little times before Martha had started a Caring Bridge site, and so I kind of made the mistake of going back and rolling back to the very beginning of that and started reading through the entries going, holy shit, this is a lot. So the more I rec, I mean more time at home and the more time just sitting. Cause I can't do a whole lot cuz you can't, they don't want you to lift anything. They don't want you to do anything ext too much energy. So you're really watching TV and there's only so much on tv, Netflix, and HBO that I really care to watch.

l agency selling travel, and [:

And so what do you think? If I take a break for six to 12 months and I work on telling my story, I work on figuring out how I can use my experiences to help other people. Because there's a story in here, and it may not be the prettiest story, but there's gotta be something positive for somebody. Cuz too many people that we've met along this way in the hospitals and friends and patients and have helped us out so many ways by just telling their stories, there's something to be said here.

So that's kind of what led me to you. When I listened to a couple of the podcasts, I was like, this might be a great opportunity to, start telling the story. And what it's made me do at this point is to put my timeline down back to the beginning. And I didn't, I thought it would be a pretty straightforward process, but it's, it's almost seven pages.

important to us. And we are [:

Light always overcomes darkness. And, there, there is a lot of hope and there's a lot of light left in me and in this world. And I am so excited for what the future holds, especially in cardiac research and what can be done just from my 20, almost 26 years as a patient, what they can do now that they could not do before.

and I am hoping that in my lifetime they reduce the need to, to crack people open. and they can do more without having to do that. Cause I think that would be a game changer, especially for older populations or younger populations that can't take the time outta life.

So that's my story in a nutshell.

And I would truly believe in the hope. And it's um, it's a lot. I'm a hot mess.

Boots Knighton: you're, you're a

zebra.

Bill Wingate: I'm

Boots Knighton: The ultimate zebra.

Bill Wingate: And I do have a funny story about that. He said that I was not a zebra. He, all he sees is

Ahmed told us. And he said, [:

so when Dr. Davies came by while I was in the hospital that day and he said, if the asshole had asked me that question beforehand, I could have told him exactly how it did cuz I know it makes a turn cuz I put it in there. But he didn't ask, he thought he could do it. I was like, only two physicians that hold people's lives in their hands would say that. So, He said, he goes, I know exactly where he is. And he started drawing it on a piece of paper and I was like, I have no idea. But he knew, he knew exactly where he was talking about. So it was, it was pretty. And then now after that procedure, the two of them, the surgeon, my surgeon and Dr. Amed have, do a lot of work together now.

t will always hold true. and [:

I'm not gonna spend a lot of time looking backwards, cuz right now, when I look backwards, it's a hot mess. And in my case, in this world that we live in, all that, I'm not giving up my bourbon. I'm not doing it. I've made it through four heart surgeries. They haven't told me I have to do that yet.

And I don't know if they tell me that. I don't know that I am, I don't know that I care enough, but we're going to have a serious conversation. And, what is guiding us through to this point is the community that we live in and the community that we surround ourselves with. and I will extend that to people, like yourself that have gone through this journey before and that are trying to connect this community of heart warriors, which I think is remarkable.

And I really want to see that community grow because it can, everyone helping each other for a much better life.

Boots Knighton: We don't have to do

anything

Bill Wingate: We don't, and a lot of

people think you do,

Boots Knighton: And we're not meant to. We're not meant to. We in our American society, it, it's still glorified that we're independent and strong And

that has [:

Bill Wingate: No. And the time that during this, I remember one of my surgeries and that I had not, it had been so long since my first one and my second one, and I remember taking a shower and then having to have help putting on pants. And I mean, as a male, that's something a grown male, you have to do. You shouldn't have to meet him putting your legs and pants.

But you know what? There comes a time in one's life that you do need And it's okay

to say,

Boots Knighton: Yeah. And that's

okay.

Bill Wingate: And we're better for saying we're we're, better for asking that

question, asking for help. Cuz I think that's probably one of the best questions that can ever be asked.

experience away because the [:

the hard times.

Bill Wingate: I would totally, I would, I wholeheartedly agree with that. and because it is an experience, I don't really wish the experience on anyone else, cuz I've known a lot of people that have done it and I was chosen to have this heart for a reason and there's gonna be good to come out of it and whatever that good is, and it may never be recognized by me, but there will be good to come out of it and.

We can tell a story, we can help people, and I wouldn't trade it because it's made me who I am. I valued things differently than what probably society really wants us to do. and I am known with my group of friends, as I may, I, I very well may make someone uncomfortable because I will say something that's on my mind and I am not overly concerned how of offensive you might think it is.

rue statement or something I [:

do things for every other people to see it and feel better about themselves.

So it is what it is. And I, I, I am very blessed to have a, wonderful support system here in town.

I'm very very blessed to have a amazing hospital system that is literally four miles from my home. that has got great people that do great work and, they are constantly training new, new surgeons and new physicians to work in this area. And that's something that we are planning on being a part of for years to come and just to get more people, better care, and then make the process easier for people to experience.

Boots Knighton: Well, thank you for being you, bill. What a joy it is

to spend time with you

Bill Wingate: Well, thank you Boots for all that you're doing for this, for this community. It's fun to do life

with you

ast, I sure would appreciate [:

Would you like to share your story on this podcast? You can either send me an email at boots the heart chamber podcast.com or you can go to my website and go to the contact link and leave me a message there. There's also a way to leave via voicemail on my website. I'm so glad you joined me for today.

Please be sure to come back next Tuesday to the Heart Chamber Podcast for another inspiring episode.

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About the Podcast

The Heart Chamber
Conversations on open-heart surgery from the patients' perspective
**The name of this podcast is changing on June 4, 2024. Be sure to subscribe so you don't miss the announcement!** Join Boots Knighton every Tuesday for conversations on open-heart surgery from the patient perspective. Boots explores the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual experiences of surgery with fellow heart patients and health care providers. This podcast aims to help patients feel less overwhelmed so you can get on with living your best life after surgery. You not only deserve to survive open-heart surgery, you deserve to THRIVE!
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