September 16th, 2016

Paddling Once Again

Bob Oller had a reaction to bad news that no doctor ever wants:

“As he was telling me I had a major blockage in my arteries, I had a heart attack,” Bob says.

A few days before, he had felt chest pain. His primary care physician referred him to a cardiologist, who asked him to report to Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center for testing.

“I do yoga and I kayak,” says Bob, an artist who was 59 at the time of his heart attack. “I would paddle up to six hours. I didn’t think anything was wrong with me.”

Taking Action

Bob was rushed to the operating room as he had his heart attack. A stent was inserted, and soon after, Sentara Nightingale Regional Air Ambulance transported him to Sentara Heart Hospital in Norfolk. A few days later, he had open-heart surgery.

“Five bypasses,” Bob says. “Everything went great.“

Six days after being admitted to Sentara Heart Hospital, Bob returned home. Two weeks later, he was determined to attend the Chamber of Commerce Taste of Williamsburg, an event he’s long supported.

“My wife, Jean, didn’t want me to go,” says Bob. “I ran into not one but two of the doctors who had helped me. Dr. (Surjya) Das, my cardiologist, looked at me and said ‘what are you doing here?!’”

Bob’s determination also led him to the Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center Cardiac Rehabilitation Lab. For about two months, he visited several times a week. He’d workout on a treadmill, a stationary bike or a rowing machine. Monitors would tell him and the staff how he was doing.

“I kept building endurance and strength,” Bob reports.

He was also nudging Dr. Das, wanting to know when he could kayak again. At the 12-week mark, Bob got his approval.

“I started with about an hour and a half, two hours,” he notes. “Now almost a year and a half later, my heart is strong. Dr. Das ran some tests recently and said the numbers are better than I would have seen 18 years ago. I’ve lost no power. He’s been awesome to work with; he’s a super communicator, very direct, very clear.“