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A Truckload of Gratitude

  • Author: Rick May
  • Date Submitted: Sep 12, 2023
  • Category: Cardiology

Rick May has been to Ground Zero, among the hundreds of commercial truck drivers who hauled sifted debris away as part of the recovery efforts following 9/11, the first such terroristic attack on American soil. Twenty years later, he was at ground zero medically, experiencing what would become a life-changing heart attack in the cab of his truck while on the job.

Having experienced minor cardiac events in his mid-40s that he attributed to extremely low blood pressure during periods of high stress, he was unfazed when it happened this time and delayed going to the hospital, only to learn from his Independence Health System interventional cardiologist Dr. Nevin Baker following the cardiac catheterization that he should have died based on the level of blockage in his artery. A stent served as a temporary solution.

His subsequent surgery and recovery were themselves a first, as the Unity Township man became the first person to benefit from robot-assisted coronary artery bypass at Independence Health System Westmoreland Hospital last March. Within hours of his minimally invasive procedure with cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Hiroyuki Tsukui, Rick was doing laps in the halls of Westmoreland’s critical care unit, and stairs before being discharged a few days later. Just 15 days post-op he was driving and nine weeks later, he was passing benchmarks that patients who had open heart surgery didn’t hit for nine months. Rick’s remarkable recovery is due in large part to the lack of a 10-inch mid-chest incision to reach his heart. Instead, he has four small incisions that today are barely visible. Experiencing little to no pain, he also has been able to keep a brisk walking pace as part of his personal rehabilitation, averaging 5 miles a day.

Given his rapid rebound, Rick doesn’t have any desire to step away from a career that’s served him well for 47 years. He’s back driving three days a week – when he’s available – and enjoying the company of his fiancée. Weaned off most medications, Rick does have one regret – the champion horseshoe player wishes he could still pitch a few, but previous bouts of skin cancer, not his heart condition, put an end to that pastime. Now Rick is content to champion his surgeon and the health system that gave him new life.

To learn more about Heart Care at Independence Health System, click here.