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Bypass Surgery at Palos Returns Tinley Park Man to an Active Life

“Before all of this, I would have said we were really lucky,” says Tinley Park-resident Rob Unger. “My father is 81 and moving right along. My mother is right behind him, and she’s as peppy as they come. My older brother and sister, my younger brother, they’re all in good health. We have longevity in our family, and I took that for granted.”

After sextuple bypass surgery last
October, followed by six weeks of
cardiac rehab and education, Tinley
Park resident Rob Unger is back to
enjoying an active life.

Rob is a pilot for Southwest Airlines, a job he loves, and his wife, Dawn, is an air-traffic controller at Midway. Theirs is literally a match made in heaven. With two active children — 11-year-old Grace and 9-year-old Zachary — and demanding work schedules, Rob and Dawn are constantly on-the-go. But on October 11, 2011, their world came to an abrupt halt.

Rob woke up at 4 that morning with what he describes as deep indigestion and pain in his left arm. When he tried to get out of bed, he became light-headed and the pain got much worse. “I had to sit back down because I literally couldn’t stand up anymore. The chest pain got deeper and deeper. It felt like something was going to climb right out of my body.” He asked Dawn to call 911.

Rob was convinced he was having a heart attack, but in the Emergency Department at Palos Community Hospital, all of his initial tests came back normal. They were prepping him for a stress test when Rob mentioned another symptom he had almost dismissed — jaw pain. Cardiologist Noel Camba, M.D., knew immediately what to do.

The Cardiac Catheterization Lab was notified and a team of nurses began prepping Rob for an angiogram, a minimally invasive procedure that diagnoses blockages in the arteries of the heart. The test revealed that he had six — four were at least 92 percent occluded and two were 98 percent blocked. At the age of 50, Rob required immediate sextuple bypass surgery.

With our state-of-the-art Cardiovascular Unit, which features two dedicate operating suites equipped to handle some of the most advanced open-heart procedures, Palos is capable of treating complex heart conditions fast. Rob’s surgery was scheduled within hours of diagnosis.

“He was fortunate he sought treatment fast and was diagnosed quickly,” says Cardiovascular Surgeon Michael Bresticker, M.D. “His symptoms and blockages were severe. A delay in treatment would have put him at risk for heart attack and a loss of heart muscle and function that could have lead to congestive heart failure and required a more extensive treatment.”

Palos’ dedicated team of 50 cardiologists, cardiovascular surgeons and interventional cardiologists perform more than 2,000 advanced cardiac procedures annually, including coronary bypass, stenting, balloon angioplasty, valve replacement and pacemaker implantation. With the support of Palos’ state-of-the-art diagnostic capabilities, treatment technologies, and post-procedure care and education, we can treat life-threatening cardiac conditions at the first sign of symptoms and get patients back to their lives and loved ones as quickly and safely as possible.

“This is the one time I listened to my body,” Rob says. “Before, when I was doing things around the house or running around with the kids, I would get tired or out of breath, and I would always attribute it to getting older. But this time was different, and because I listened to my body, I’m here… 100 percent. There are a lot of things I don’t take for granted anymore.”

What Our Heart Care Patients Say