Tom Phelan considers himself a lucky man.
“I got my life back twice in the past year,” says Tom, who wasn’t able to keep up with his active grandkids, Nora, 8 and Ellie, 5, due to a bad knee.
Last March, the Chicopee man underwent successful knee replacement surgery, but got more than he bargained for. When feeling short of breath after surgery, his care team found an irregularity in his aorta, most likely an aortic aneurysm.
WHAT IS AN ANEURYSM?
Aneurysms in the chest area, like Tom’s, are usually the result of a weakness of the tissues of the aorta. High blood pressure causes those tissues to stretch, eventually leading to an aneurysm.
“When my daughter Marsha, who works in the medical field, told me not to worry, I knew it was time to worry. She told me she was going to take care of it, that aortic aneurysms were common, and she had already spoken to a friend of hers at Baystate Medical Center about their cardiac surgery program and asked for some recommendations,” says Tom.
“Marsha was right. Aneurysms are very common and comprise a large part of our surgeries at the hospital,” says cardiac surgeon Dr. David Deaton of the Heart & Vascular Program at Baystate Medical Center, who discovered that Tom had a leaking heart valve that would need to be replaced as well.
A GREAT SURGEON
Tom did a little research of his own, only to find out that everyone he spoke with said Dr. Deaton was “a great surgeon” and that he didn’t need to look outside the area for expertise in performing his surgery.
“Dr. Deaton was very low key and calming, and that was a good thing because when I went in to see him I was very excited, and not in a good way. He answered my questions matter-of-factly and I knew from his approach that it wasn’t his first day as a cardiac surgeon,” says Tom.
“You look at your heart as life and death. And I was worried about dying. But Dr. Deaton told me if I were to die after returning to work after a four-month recovery period, it wouldn’t be from my heart. He exuded confidence and I liked that. I couldn’t have been more relaxed with him and about the surgery, and I’m not what you would call a relaxed guy,” he adds.
A NEW LEASE ON LIFE
Tom, 60, said his surgery back in June has given him “a new lease on life.”
“I was gaining weight while waiting for my knee surgery, and wasn’t fussy about watching what I ate….enjoying fast food with the grandkids. But with the operation and going to cardiac rehab at Baystate and doing things I should have been doing right along, like getting exercise on the treadmill and exercise bike, ironically I’m now leading a healthier lifestyle,” says Tom.
“I’m back to work now and doing things with my grandkids that they never expected I would do with them,” he adds.