Healthy As a Horse? Frankfort Man ‘Lucky’ after Quadruple Bypass Saves His Life
Peter Wilkes remembers waking up in recovery at Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox with his wife Sarah and his cardiologist looking over him.
“The doctor said to me, ‘This is either the best day of your life, or the worst.’”
Wilkes, Chief of the Criminal Division for the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office, was in for surgery last October, initially to repair blocked arteries. Before surgery, Dr. Pappas and his team found severe blockage in all major arteries, and he would need a quadruple bypass.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said Wilkes, 57, of Frankfort. “I come from an athletic family. I run; not long distances, more like a Clydesdale. And I power lift with my 19-year-old son.”
But in early 2020, Wilkes began to notice pressure in his chest when he would run even less than a mile.
“I would just stop, let it pass and keep running,” said the father of five, and a former athlete accustomed to pushing through pain.
When the symptoms didn’t pass by last September, Wilkes’ wife, a nurse, said he’d better get it checked out. His primary care physician, Dr. Mike Demaertelaere, referred him to a cardiologist.
When initial tests showed Wilkes had significant blockages in the arteries of his heart, his cardiologist had him make an appointment with Dr. Patroklos (Pat) Pappas, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Silver Cross.
Even though Wilkes is among his relatively younger patients, Dr. Pappas noted he leads a stressful life as a lawyer, father and husband. He also had developed high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels. And, there was coronary artery disease and cerebrovascular disease on his father’s side, which may have also contributed.
Dr. Pappas and his team were able to perform a quadruple bypass, which the doctor said Wilkes tolerated very well.
“Under the surgical team, cardiovascular unit staff and cardiac rehabilitation, he quickly recuperated and was able to go home four days after the surgery,” Dr. Pappas said. “It is imperative that he continues to take all of his medicine for his cholesterol, blood pressure, and an aspirin every day. This will help prevent future disease progression.”
Wilkes said he was told that new growth of blood vessels helped keep blood pumping to his heart, preventing a heart attack and permanent damage. Maybe it was the exercise and relatively healthy diet that kept him going.
“I don’t know how that happened,” he said. “But last summer, I was running sprints at the park. I could have dropped right there from a ‘widow-maker,’ and no one would have seen me. I am extremely lucky and thankful to the Man Upstairs.”
The bypass had immediate success, he said. “My wife told me right after surgery, I looked great. Each day that went by, I felt better. I wasn’t tired at the end of the day. And I can run 30 minutes without a problem.
“I can’t tell you how great I feel.”
Soon after discharge, he was set up with cardiac rehab three times a week at Silver Cross. He said the staff there has been wonderful all along.
“The nurses, the operating room staff, the cardiac unit nurses, all could not have been nicer, more helpful or more considerate.”
Wilkes knows he was lucky. And he urges people with any symptoms not to brush them off.
“I know a couple people in our community who succumbed to sudden heart attacks,” he said. “After my surgery, all of a sudden, wives of friends were saying, ‘That’s it. My husband is getting checked out now!”
During Heart Health Month in February, Silver Cross is offering $49 heart scans, which identify levels of calcium deposits. For more information, call 815-300-SCAN (7226), or visit www.silvercross.org/heart.
For more information about heart care at Silver Cross, visit www.silvercross.org/heart.