Fresh off an abrupt diagnosis that throws his life into disarray, Bill Fitzpatrick is admitted to the hospital to receive a stent. 

Fitzpatrick guides the audience into a frantic hospital scene that ultimately results in a discharge home, though more health obstacles remain in his way outside the four walls of the hospital. 

His family provides an intimate look at the fear and uncertainty that accompanies a heart disease diagnosis and how perilous the road to recovery looks.

Dr. Rohit Vuppuluri, a cardiologist based in Chicago, details the clinical process behind a coronary angioplasty and how stents are used to treat blocked arteries.

Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a preventative cardiologist, spokesperson for Go Red for Women initiative through the American Heart Association and founder of Adesso, a heart prevention and wellness program for women, talks about what the recovery timeline looks like for patients who receive treatment for heart disease.

MM+M, in conjunction with Cardiology Advisor, presents Me and My Heart, a special four-part podcast series delving into Fitzpatrick’s turbulent patient journey, the persistence of heart disease and issues surrounding access to care in America.

To listen to the other episodes in this series, click here.

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Note: The MM+M Podcast uses speech-recognition software to generate transcripts, which may contain errors. Please use the transcript as a tool but check the corresponding audio before quoting the podcast.

I came downstairs because the doctor called me.

And I had to have him repeat the diagnosis to you. And he said your husband has an 80% blockage. He has heart disease. What do you think?

I was like, whoa, I think up to that point. I was like, oh, you know, here we go. He was like the man flu all these symptoms.

You know.

are just not that serious, but that was definitely the moment where I was like, okay, this is

really scary and really serious


pressure cause of death according to a report release.

We also have to talk about family history.

I didn’t have any problems till I was in my I just mid 50s. You have heart

never stop calling. I don’t feel well, I don’t feel well you do whatever it takes to get the help you need

freaking out knowing that I have a blockage in one of my arteries.

I met my wife when we were teenagers in high school. She came to one of my band practices on a Friday night. I was probably smoking a cigarette at the curb and we started chatting a few months later. I definitely did the 90s thing of asking. Do you want to go out with me?

I think she said no a couple of times actually.

But then she said yes and we were on and off for many years now. We’re married 10 years. We’ve got three amazingly beautiful really tough at times children and she’s sitting in a hospital waiting room as I await a cardiac catheterization to tell me just how clogged my artery is.

Things are about to move quickly and Bill’s patient Journey for Muncie had been experiencing these increasingly frequent chest pains, but have been told by doctors that it was either nothing to worry about or something. That would be addressed down the line. Now, he’s two days removed from receiving life-changing information and on his way to the hospital.

After that phone call and like those next couple days where he wanted you to come in right away. We like couldn’t sleep. I was definitely like just so worried like could this be life right. Now? You hear all these horrible stories of people having hard problems or not having harm problems and then just like dying of heart attacks young we’ve had friends. We have people in our community and I’m like is this happening? I really don’t want to be able we have three little kids. This is not supposed out be how it’s supposed to be

for anybody that goes to the hospital even for a plan procedure. There is a nominal amount of anxiety that you feel

Now imagine that they’re going to go in and do an emergency procedure on your heart. That’s where Bill is at this moment in time. I’m Jack O’Brien digital editor at mmm.

In conjunction with Cardiology advisor a Haymarket media publication presents me and my heart



I got to the

hospital checked in pretty quickly. They get you on the table to prep you.

This is all new for me too. By the way. I’ve never had a medical procedure in my life. So I I’ve never taken my clothes off in a hospital and put a hospital down on at that point. I don’t even think I fully understood what was about to happen. I can’t even say I was nervous. So I was nervous but there really wasn’t even too much time to be nervous and there was so much going on where that like I couldn’t even focus on being nervous which I guess was a good thing for those who

may not be as familiar with cardiovascular health and how stents work. It can seem like a scary thing. However, coronary angioplasties have been around for decades. The first recorded coronary angioplasty was conducted in Zurich in late 1977.

The first one conducted in the Western Hemisphere occurred in March of 1978.

Since that time there have been a myriad of changes in advances in the discipline. We all know today as Interventional Cardiology that’s courtesy of Dr. Simon sturtzer professor of medicine Emeritus at Stanford University’s division of cardiovascular medicine and the first doctor to perform a coronary angioplasty in the United States at the time of Dr. Sturtzer’s first procedure. He says that fewer than six people in the world could perform a coronary angeoplasty and the medical establishment was unsure as to whether invasive Cardiology was appropriate at all fast forward a couple decades and stents are a widely accepted medical procedure for cardiovascular care.

Sure, they’re still scary and they are used in emergency situations like bills, but they are accepted

and they do serve a purpose. The procedure itself is basically going you know, we take catheters from the growing from the radial arteries these days and we inject contrast into the arteries of the heart using an x-ray machine. We’re able to capture how the arteries appear and how they look as their traversing around the art muscle. My name is broth football area. I’m an Interventional cardiologist. I practice in Chicago Illinois and the idea is to identify if there’s any blockages in the arteries. They put my bed in position in the

procedural room. They pump me up with an antihistamine because I’m allergic to the contrast.

The doctors and nurses and assistance in the room all say hello. Ask me how I’m doing.

One of them lifts up my gown and takes a buzzer to my groin area wasn’t expecting that.

But again, I don’t really know what to expect.

So I’m in the procedural room. I’m laying on my back noticed two large video monitors that will end up displaying all my vitals and have the images of my heart and arteries while bill is laying there on the table. All you can think about

is how the hell did this happen. Was it unhealthy eating habits. I’ll have a sausage egg and cheese on a roll and yeah bacon and chipotle made of that more than a decades worth of smoking cigarettes.

Family genetics.

I don’t know it’s in the family. So it’s hard to determine but you kind of young,


know, my father had blockages at 38. That’s mother had I know she had that ordering. Her neck was caught

was it his bat with covid that had adversely impacted his cardiovascular health.

people had covid


events gone up exponentially.

That’s Dr. Suzanne steinbaum a preventative cardiologist in a national spokesperson for go read through the American Heart Association

this idea of long.

Covid part of that is cardiac related and I don’t think we’ve all made that connection quite yet, but we have to because the the playing field is now being leveled now. It’s affecting all of us and we have to address it in a really different way than we have.

Then I start getting poked with multiple sharp needles right into my wrist that actually

Hurt that might have hurt even more so that the actual procedure itself. It was just one right after the other when we’re getting assets into the

actual artery. We give a little bit of like numbing medicine. So it’s usually lidocaine which we kind of inject just around the area where we want to stick with our access, you know into the artery so that should know the skin so that you don’t feel any pain once we’re actually going and the needle once we infiltrate the numbing medicine that we go ahead with the different needle and get access into the actual artery itself. That’s how we start the procedure. They

then pumped me with a Twilight anesthesia. They want you to stay awake during this

procedure. What was it like being awake for the procedure

it is so weird to watch this happen while it’s happening to you. Like I’m watching it on a screen in front of me the same screen that the doctors are

watching. You want to see nice and uniform arteries all across the heart but in cases where there’s blockages you’ll see that uniformly change.

Become a lot smaller in certain areas and it’ll open up again.

Whenever the appearance of the artery gets very small. That’s an indication for a blockage this thin

hair like tube gets inserted into my arm goes up all the way into my artery and just all the way up into my heart. It’s scary insanely impressive and also just the weirdest thing that I have ever physically had happened to me and this whole time you’re awake we use

a special catheter that allows us to put stents into the artery. We use that Catholic in advance it up to the artery of the heart at that point. We use a small wire and cross the blockage with the wire inside the artery and that wire is basically the conduit that allows us to advance any balloons or stents into the artery. Once we get the wire in place then we advance the balloon across that area of blockage. We inflate it up to a nominal pressure, which is roughly the size of

Actual artery and then after inflating the balloon we leave it up for about five to ten seconds. And then the balloon comes down now we deflate it and then we removed the food from the body. So the catheter is in there

and the doctor is looking at it on the screen. He’s getting into all of the arteries making sure they’re all clear he gets to the 80% blocked artery.

Gets a closer look and determines that it is not 80% blocked.

It is in fact 90% blocked.

My eyes wide into bit when he said that.

And he immediately said we are inserting a stent now.

The benefit of placing a stent is that artery will

stay open for a longer period of Time Versus just angeloplasty.

So after using the balloon, we would then Advance a stent across the blockage and the stent is similarly delivered on a balloon device. So that once the stent is across the blockage. I mean inflate the stent and then we deflate the balloon and then the stent is Left Behind. The balloon is

removed from

the body. And then once we’re done with the stent being placed, we’ll take some final pictures and with contrast basically evaluate the artery and make sure that it’s back to its uniformly as we would expect to be. I was definitely a little scared at that point.

Stent is going in. I’m watching it on the screen. You see the balloon inflate and then deflate and then they pull everything out.

And it’s so quick and then they put this like Square kind of compressor. No stitches this very very tight compressed Square thing. I honestly don’t even have a technical word for it. That’s for the doctors to know and the nurses to know so from the radio artery, we’re using a pressure

bandage. Basically, that’s all just a plastic device that has a again air chamber inside of it and we inflate that air chamber to basically stop the blood from coming out of the artery.

And then over time over the next couple hours about two to three cc’s of air are slowly removed every 30 minutes and that’s how the the artery stays open but also stops of bleeding so we don’t want to stop the blood circulation going into your hand. But at the same time we just want to stop the bleeding. So that’s why that compression devices used.

I got wheel back to my little spot in cardiology department. They hook you back up to the EKG and all the monitors and feeling a little strange. That’s why I like drugs definitely kicked in a little bit. My wife was there so she got brought in a little while after so at least I wasn’t alone

when I was coming into the recovery room. They’re like Wheeling you in.

When the two nurses different nurses, I just said like how to go.

It went well, but was pretty blocked and you know.

Six more months this could have been a real heart attack.

Was all scary I feel weird. I did not feel like myself but I got through it because my wife was there.

I had some family members texted me and I was texting them back though. I didn’t have too much use of my right hand at that time. My right wrist was killing the whole arm was so the whole area was sore and it was really wasn’t usable and I had to keep it still anyway, because they don’t want you to risk doing any damage to that artery that they were just in they brought out a delicious Hospital chicken salad sandwich. That was my first meal. There’s one of the last times I actually ate meat for a very long time after that. I did start to feel really weak even though I took the antihistamine, I’m still pretty badly allergic to that contrast. So I was starting to feel the allergic reactions to that. So he’s getting a little shaky little feverish.

So before they discharge me from the hospital the nurse has come over and go over some medicines with me that I’m gonna be taking some of them for the rest of my life and one of them for the next few months. It’s a lot of care about like what you need to do with your arm and with the wound site no lifting anything heavy for at least a week or two.

Including your kids which kind of sucks because I know they probably want me outside throwing them around playing baseball and whatnot, but it’s all right. I’ll take a break and it’s too cold out there anyway boys.

So they go over all that and then of course tell you, you know, you have to follow up with your cardiologist. You got to go back and I think a month afterwards.

And then keep making the appointments and keep following up.

When it finally was time for me to leave.

I stood up and I was like woozy and they were kind of surprised that I was but I’m telling you it’s probably just because all that stuff that they injected in me was hitting me late.


I don’t feel like I was even under any anesthesia and even a Twilight form of it during the procedure. I was my mind was pretty clear.

What were those first days at home like?

Like did you feel physically different?

Yeah, it was bad. I had a pretty bad recovery from it even like all the old people in my life the seniors that have stents were so shocked first off my entire wrist and arm and the artery going all the way up to my shoulder actually stung. It was almost like a burning because something was in there.

Sometimes that could happen with the radial artery when you go from the arm because it’s a smaller artery when you’re putting catheters through you may actually cause like a spasm of the artery.

That’s one of the times when patients will feel some pain if the artery clamps down on the catheter for whatever reason that it makes a little bit harder for us to one Advance them Advance the catheter into the arm and also to remove the catheter.

So that could be something where you may feel some soreness and some irritation after the procedure,

but I didn’t know that I was still scared and still fearful at thinking even though I have a stent in that any moment. Maybe you get all those dark thoughts like, oh my God my body. What if it rejects the stent? What if it clogs up right away? What if the anti-clotting pill that I’m taking every day doesn’t work so I had all these thoughts but then I started like I had a fever and a fever they say is normal if it’s controllable by Tylenol. So that was December 30th. My procedure all New Year’s Eve. I was laying on the couch just out of commission. I want

you to think about your ideal New Year’s Eve situation.

For many it’s probably like something out of When Harry Met Sally. It’s a big party. Everyone’s dressed up. You’ve got a flu to Champagne. There’s hors d’oeuvres going around you’re ready for the ball to drop. It’s a really fun vibrant scene for a lot of people let Bill tell you about what New Year’s Eve 2022 was like for him post procedure felt kind of sick felt

tired. I was over a hundred with a fever. I was taking Tylenol all day.

We had gotten home.

You are just kind of like laying on the couch chilling for the new year. Oh, I had a drink or two and

he has suddenly just felt your head next to my arm, and it was burning hot.

and I took her temperature and it was

like 101 and we got nervous because the paperwork had said that a fever shouldn’t go over a hundred if it was over a hundred called the doctor now, it’s like 11 pm one years.

Had two vodka sodas and I’m like, maybe I should stop drinking just in case I have to bring him somewhere.

What were you thinking on New Year’s Eve when you saw me sick on the couch,

very scared like a very very very scared.

Why were you scared

when you were laying on the couch like this and it was very scary.

So, it’s New Year’s Eve 2023. I’m passed out on the couch feeling miserable feeling nauseous getting strange cramps in my chest area.

That my anxiety is leading me to think might be my stent or my artery stretching or something like that. I have no idea. I’ve got a fever of about 101. I’m taking Tylenol all day long my daughter Quinny.

Is a little scared that dad being so weirdly sick after just getting out of the hospital, but it’s New Year’s Eve so her and her brothers are trying to stay up late. My wife was enjoying herself with a couple of adult beverages as she’s allowed to do and now she stops to be scared right along with me.

Happy New Year


the next episode of me and my heart you

didn’t really know what it was supposed to feel like so that was I remember making you feel really worried the

medications we have are so powerful that heart function is being improved from being nothing to being normal. I

put down alcohol 100%

then you you is to choose the healthier breakfast the new you is to, you know, after work have a routine of going to the gym once a day. Listen to your doctor. That’s why and take your status.