Veteran Receives Heartfelt Care and Recognition
As a Marine Corps veteran who spent his career doing hard physical labor, Joseph Gallagher, 75, has a high tolerance for pain, and he doesn’t scare easily. so when the Southampton resident felt a strange burning sensation in his chest one day in august 2014 while attending a car show, he did what most tough guys do — nothing. “I just sat down until it went away,” he recalls.
A week later though, it happened again. “This time I was in my garage, working under a car,” he says. “That scared me. I immediately went into the house and told my wife, who called my doctor (internist Steven I. Cowan, DO, of Abington Health Physicians), who told me to get to the emergency room.”
At Abington Hospital – Jefferson Health, cardiologist Asoka Balaratna, MD, performed a cardiac catheterization that revealed multiple blockages in the arteries around Joseph’s heart, including the left anterior descending artery, which supplies blood to the front wall of the heart. To Joseph, this came as a complete shock. “I’d always had low cholesterol, and I’d never had any history of heart problems,” he says.
Joseph’s next meeting was with cardiothoracic surgeon Mauricio J. Garrido, MD, who explained that the blockages were too numerous and severe to be treated with minimally invasive methods such as angioplasty. “In Joseph’s case, it was more beneficial to do a coronary artery bypass graft (CABG), in which healthy blood vessels are used to bypass the blocked portions of the arteries, creating new pathways for blood to flow,” Dr. Garrido says.
Dr. Garrido notes that Joseph’s lack of symptoms wasn’t at all unusual. “Even seemingly healthy people who exercise all the time can have blockages in their arteries,” he says.
On August 25, Dr. Garrido performed a coronary artery bypass graft procedure on four blocked vessels leading to Joseph’s heart. He was assisted by a dedicated nursing and anesthesia team, and the surgery went smoothly.
Joseph spent the next six days in the hospital surrounded by staff who were attentive to his every need and even took the time to honor his military service. In place of the traditional heart-shaped red pillow that patients hug to alleviate pain from a chest incision, he was given a special veterans pillow covered in camouflage fabric. “I was so touched by that gesture,” he says. “When you’re lying in bed, scared, small things like that make a huge difference.”
Today, Joseph is back to enjoying his life and family. “I can do many of the things I did before, only a little slower,” he says. “I’m so grateful for the doctors and nurses at Abington who fixed me up and gave me my life back.”