MedWatch- Open Heart Surgery from Medwatch 7 KSWO on Vimeo.

LAWTON, OK (KSWO)- Open heart surgery, three words that can be scary to hear. For Jerry Sappington, he didn’t have much time to even process those words before he was prepped for the operating room.

It started when he was experiencing cramps in his legs.

“When I would go to mow my yard, what used to take me an hour and a half, was the last time I did it, took me five and a half hours. Because I had to sit down, I couldn’t breathe, and my legs were cramping,” explained Sappington.

After several tests, on November 3rd of last year, his doctor performed a stress test, the results finally giving an answer.

“And within ten minutes, they had me in route here, to Comanche County, because I had so much blockage. And then they operated the next morning,” Sappington said.

Jerry had three major arteries blocked and he needed open-heart bypass surgery.

“What we do in the open-heart surgery is we take somebody who has had either a heart attack or chest pain, and we take their blockages and we go around them. So instead of a stent that might go through to open up, we are able to go around and hit all the places where they might be blocked at the same time,” said Dr. Aaron Trachte, a Cardiovascular and Thoracic surgeon at CCMH.

Cardiovascular and Thoracic surgeon Dr. Aaron Trachte says this allows doctors to fix all of the blocked arteries at once.

“What you see is a dramatic change. You can have somebody who has gone from where they couldn’t breathe, or they couldn’t walk, or they couldn’t be active and had to worry about what their limits were, to being back to doing full activities,” said Dr. Trachte.

Jerry was in the hospital for 6 days and is now in rehab at Comanche County Memorial Hospital’s Healthy Heart Center. His recovery has been quick, but he’s had to make some lifestyle changes.

“I’ve tried to keep my weight down by being healthy. I still eat some things I probably shouldn’t, but when I do it’s in much smaller portions. And that’s where I go from here. Because I don’t want to go through this again,” said Sappington.

His wife has been his rock through it all, but it has been tough.

“It’s just an emotional thing to go through. These people here are super. Dr. Trachte…I can’t say enough about Dr. Trachte, Dr. Miller, Colleen, the Physician’s Assistant,” said Sappington.

Dr. Trachte says it’s a team effort, and he has some of the best nurses and staff who all deserve to be thanked.

“What’s special to me is when you see all that work, and you have a patient come back and say ‘hey you’ve made this real big change.’ But the problem is a lot of the people on the way, don’t get to have that same experience I get. I’m lucky that they come back and tell me, but I really know it’s a team that makes it work,” Dr. Trachte.

Jerry says, the staff went above and beyond, and he only has one message to say to them.

“Thank you. You were all my angels. And they saved my life,” said Sappington.

Jerry says he is doing well and is ready to get out and run a mile. If you do experience shortness of breath or chest pain during exercise or activities, you might want to get it checked out. It could turn out to be a heart condition.

Copyright 2017 KSWO. All rights reserved.