Robotic CABG Surgery Patient Climbs a Mountain Three Months after Heart Surgery

Before his heart surgery, Douglas Martin of Westminster, Maryland, could barely walk up his driveway without losing his breath. But just three months after having robot-assisted triple bypass at UMMC to repair three blocked arteries, Martin successfully climbed to the summit of Diamond Head on Mount Leahi, one of the roughest hiking trails in Hawaii. Read more about his experience below.

Photo of Douglas Martin and his wife

Douglas Martin and his wife

My name is Douglas Martin and I'd like to share my story about my experiences at the University of Maryland Heart Center.

In 2007 I was having chest pains.  I had a physical and the EKG showed a slight difference from 2006. In early 2008 my doctor sent for a stationary stress test, EKG and echocardiogram. All three of those tests came back normal. They ruled out heart problems but I was still having chest pains. This started happening shortly after my physical. I started getting worse. This led to other tests including a gallbladder test, which came back abnormal. So I had my gallbladder removed in 2008.That helped for a while, but then pains came back. The doctors did an upper endoscopy, which came back normal, but my chest pains were really bad and no one knew what to do.

In January of 2009, I decided to a full-body scan. The next morning they faxed me, and told me to go to a hospital. The test showed that my calcium level was very high, which meant that there was a lot of plaque buildup in my arteries. The high level of calcium put me in 90% risk of a heart attack.

Three major arteries in front of the heart were blocked -- the top one was totally blocked, the bottom one partially blocked. It was decided that a bypass would be better than to try to open the totally blocked artery. He was concerned that if they tried to open the artery with a stent it might cause a rupture in the heart. They discussed it with me and we decided to get bypass rather than correct it with stents. The cardiac surgeon explained that there was another procedure, robotic CABG surgery.

In my case it was good because I didn't have a heart attack. It was an elective surgery. There was no damage to my heart yet. The surgeon said they would try to do robotic surgery but if there was a problem with it, it would go to open chest surgery. He said recovery time was so much shorter with robotics.

On February 18, 2009, I had my surgery, which was successful. Within two days I was up and walking around. I spent five days in the hospital then I went home. I had to slow down a little. My recovery was pretty quick. I went back to work on March 30, and that's not too long for heart surgery.  After two weeks I went back to see my doctor, who did an EKG. He was satisfied.

From Heart Surgery to Mountain Climbing

Photo of Douglas Martin and his wifeBefore the surgery I could not walk up my driveway, which is a 40-foot elevation. I would have to stop and catch my breath. After the surgery, I took time off in May to go to Hawaii. While we were there, my wife and I climbed Diamond Head, one of the roughest hiking trails in Hawaii. We walked up 271 steps.

It was a great feeling to be able to do something like that, especially knowing a year before I couldn't have done that. Now all of my scars have healed. I have only four very small scars on my chest. I get on a treadmill 30 minutes every day. I've changed to a healthier diet, with more pasta, salads and fish. I used to eat more red meat.

After the surgery, I thanked the surgeon for not having to do open surgery. I feel absolutely great, and I have no major scars, no problems at all. At the hospital, everyone was great, very nice. I retired after I came back from Hawaii. I've been feeling great. I still can't believe the big difference in how I feel.