Catching a silent killer
The UW Medicine Regional Heart Center helps an engineer get back to designing airplanes.
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On any given day, Wallace Chan can be found clocking thousands of steps around the Boeing campus, where he spends anywhere from 10 to 12 hours a day working as a senior engineer, living out his dream of designing airplanes. While he doesn’t describe himself as an athlete, Wallace, 54, is constantly on his feet and has always been in good health.
As a pretty active guy, heart issues were the furthest thing from his mind. But he’d been feeling dizzy from time to time and thought he should mention it to his primary care provider at his annual physical. When all of his bloodwork and tests came back normal, his doctor still thought something was up. Why would someone in good health get dizzy so easily? A heart patient himself, his doctor sent him to see James E. Pautz, M.D., a cardiologist who practices at Northwest Hospital & Medical Center and the Cardiology Clinic at Mill Creek Family Practice.
“He came directly from a stress test and he nearly passed out in my office,” says Dr. Pautz. An angiogram returned the cause of Wallace’s dizziness: multi-vessel coronary artery disease with an 80 percent blockage of blood flow to his heart.
“I was shocked,” says Wallace. “I could have had a heart attack at any time.”
That was Nov. 18, 2016. By November 22, two days before Thanksgiving, Wallace was having bypass surgery at Northwest Hospital in Seattle. He spent just under a week in the hospital and remembers the second day as the hardest, and that his recovery only got easier from there.
“All the nurses were really helpful, especially in the intensive care unit the first few days,” he says, recalling that there was always someone around. For the first few weeks he saw Dr. Pautz for frequent follow-up visits. “He’s a really thorough guy. He wanted to see me every week and make sure nothing was getting worse.”
A partnership designed for convenience
Thanks to a partnership between the UW Medicine Regional Heart Center at Northwest Hospital and Mill Creek Family Practice, Wallace was able to have his surgery in Seattle, but have all his follow-up visits up north.
“He was able to access the UW Medicine health care system very close to his home in Bothell. It was very convenient for him,” says Dr. Pautz.
That convenience helped him make all his clinic appointments and aided in a smooth recovery.
“From surgery day to back-to-work was 11 and a half weeks and I haven’t taken a sick day since then,” Wallace shares, happily back to doing what he does best. He has a scar, and doesn’t do any heavy lifting, but says he’s back to his daily walks—and he no longer feels dizzy.
When Wallace isn’t designing the real thing at work, you can find him at his home meticulously constructing model airplanes–which he collects–reading or enjoying time in nature with his family.
His story can serve as a reminder to speak up to your provider about anything that doesn’t feel right, says Dr. Pautz.
“Coronary disease presents in many different ways and Wallace didn’t have the traditional symptoms of the chest pain and shortness of breath—he just didn’t feel good,” he says. “His EKG was normal and all his bloodwork was normal, but his doctor took him seriously enough to have him checked out. There was a very low pretest probability of it being his heart, but it turned out to be a very serious problem. Had any of these steps not occurred, he probably would not have had a good outcome.”
For more information about the UW Medicine Regional Heart Center at Northwest Hospital, visit nwhospital.org. To make an appointment, call 206.520.5000.Facebook Share TwitterTweet