Beth Reynolds: "I Thought I Was Healthy, then I Had a Quadruple Bypass"
“I always felt like I was healthy,” recalls Beth Reynolds of Lewes. A school nurse during her career in Wilmington, Beth and her husband, Larry, retired to the Angola area to be closer to the water. “I was already eating a low-fat diet because if you had asked me then about my biggest health concern, I would have said diabetes or lung cancer.”
Beth, a former smoker, was getting regular lung scans through her primary care provider, Catherine DeLuca, MD. It was during one of these scans this past May when the radiologist noticed calcification of Beth’s aorta.
“Dr. DeLuca explained to me that even though the scan was for my lungs, one of the views captured part of my heart and that’s when they noticed what looked like severe calcification,” Beth said.
She had a cardiac calcium scoring done which calculates your risk of developing coronary artery disease by measuring the amount of calcified plaque in your coronary arteries.
A severe score is considered anything over 400. Beth’s score was over 1,000.
Preparing for Surgery
“I was shocked and terrified. I just didn’t expect it,” Beth recalls. She was referred to Ehtasham Qureshi, MD, a cardiologist with Delaware Cardiovascular Associates in Lewes.
“I told Dr. Qureshi that sometimes I had chest tightness, but that I always attributed it to my asthma and allergies,” Beth said. “He told me that what I was feeling was actually resting angina.”
When Dr. Qureshi gave Beth a dose of nitro, which makes the coronary arteries open wider to allow for increased blood flow, Beth immediately felt better.
“I had never heard of resting angina and I really thought what I was feeling was asthma, but when the nitro made it disappear, I fully recognized that I was having heart issues all this time,” she said.
During Beth’s cardiac catheterization procedure at Beebe Healthcare’s Margaret H. Rollins Lewes Campus, Dr. Qureshi realized that her condition was so severe she would need a quadruple bypass.
“He told me that I wasn’t going home until I had the bypass surgery,” Beth said. “I was so overwhelmed and emotional. I couldn’t believe what was going on. I was completely in shock.
The team at Beebe really got me through it. They held my hand the entire time and were so understanding when I was so upset.”
Beth’s husband and her son, Brian, were by her side, asking questions and providing support.
During the night, Beth experienced severe angina – like nothing she had ever felt before. “I was terrified. I really thought I was having a heart attack,” she said. She was moved into the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for a day before her cardiac surgery with M.L. Ray Kuretu, MD, of Beebe Cardiac Surgery.
“Dr. Kuretu and his team were great. They walked me through each step of what to expect with kindness and compassion,” Beth said. “After my quadruple bypass, I was scared about the recovery. I told myself to take it one step at a time and I also promised myself that after this, I would do everything in my power to take care of my heart.”
Big Changes Thanks to Ornish
When Beth returned home, she started on her new health journey. “It was slow going. The recovery after open heart surgery is not easy,” she said. “There are follow-up appointments, home care visits, and physical therapy. And, there’s lots to know and remember. However, I felt supported. There were multiple people from various Beebe programs involved in my care and they were all amazing.”
After Beth started to feel better, she joined Beebe’s Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation program, which includes Cardiac Rehab and Ornish Lifestyle Medicine.
Beebe Healthcare is the only provider of the Ornish program in Delaware. This program is nationally recognized—through the results of more than 35 years of peer-reviewed, published research—for preventing, stopping, and even reversing the progression of heart disease.
Participants in the program commit to eating a low-fat, plant-based diet, exercising at least 30 minutes each day, learning stress management techniques, and focusing on supportive relationships.
“I joined a group of people who had all had heart events. Together we were a cohort and we went through the program together,” Beth said. “I was amazed by what I learned! I always thought I understood food, nutrition, and labels – but I had so much to learn. It’s really a process and together we all grew stronger.”
One of the components of the program is love and support. For this, the group developed open communication together as they sat and each shared stories. “The support group was something I wasn’t sure about – but it became my favorite part because I gained so much from interacting with other members of the group.”
“Ornish was completely eye-opening for me,” Beth said. “I brought the information home, went through our fridge and pantry, and committed to a plant-based diet. My husband and son are very supportive.”
Since starting Ornish, Beth’s blood work has improved too. All of her numbers, except for triglycerides, are now within normal levels.
“When friends invite me over, they worry about what to cook for me. I tell them that I am coming for the love and support, not for the food,” Beth says. “My health is important to me and I am never going back to my old ways. It’s about making decisions that are the best for you. For me, Ornish is what I need to be healthy, so I am going to stick with it.”