Your Health Today Magazine

Lynn Wellman's swan song a harbinger to better health

Lynn and Nancy Wellman

Lynn Wellman, with his wife, Nancy

He was a musician first, a patient second.

And so, before his surgery on Sept. 1, Lynn Wellman set aside his worries and sat down at the grand piano in the lobby of the John K. Pruellage Heart & Vascular Center for what he thought might be his swan song.

An appreciative crowd gathered and called for an encore. But now it was time for the performance of the cardiac team at St. Anthony’s: three-way coronary artery bypass graft surgery on Lynn’s ailing heart.

“Let’s roll,” Lynn said to his caregivers and his wife, Nancy, who was in tears.

Today, after a bypass procedure with cardiothoracic surgeon Seiichi Noda, MD, and his team, Lynn is back to his busy schedule. As owner of Remnant Productions with his wife, he delivers two to three concerts of music from the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s each day to independent living and other organizations within a 60-mile radius of his home in Waterloo, Ill. Nancy, a now-retired certified dementia practitioner and certified activity professional, works with her husband using her skills and experience.

Ironically, it was a car accident that led Lynn, 64, to learn the extent of his heart troubles. After his car was rear-ended by another driver last August, he was brought to St. Anthony’s Emergency Department. An electrocardiogram turned up an “abnormal left ventricular.” He underwent a stress test with cardiologist Ben Morrison, MD, followed by a catheterization procedure with Gus Theodos, MD.

The doctors explained that Lynn would need a triple bypass procedure for blockages to his heart, though Lynn was certain they had picked up the wrong chart. As Nancy observed, “How can you look so good and have such an awful heart?”

So Lynn played his swan song. Afterward, he underwent off-pump coronary artery bypass surgery with Dr. Noda. During this surgery, the patient is not connected to a heart-lung machine, so the heart and lungs continue to function normally during surgery. Dr. Noda grafted an artery from Lynn’s chest, and veins from his legs, to make detours around the blocked areas in the heart.

“The triple bypass these days, from the time we actually start the cut to the chest to the time we’ve finished, is typically only an hour and a half or two hours, versus three and a half to four hours with the use of a heart/lung machine,” Dr. Noda said.

The short time on the operating table worried Nancy Wellman, who was waiting for Dr. Noda.

But Lynn was going to be fine. Dr. Noda explained the surgery to the family, and he literally drew a picture of the procedure for them to be as clear as possible.

“It was unbelievable teamwork, I’ve got to say,” Lynn recalled. “Just incredible. The ICU team was excellent. And the food was good to great!”

The following Sunday, Lynn played a victory concert at the grand piano.

After a recovery period with Nancy, his “best caregiver,” and three weekly visits to Cardiac Rehab, he will be back on his own road bike soon. Lynn now is back to his usual routine and feels better than he did before the surgery. As long as he continues to see the cardiology team regularly and does what he should, his prognosis should be very good, Drs. Noda and Morrison said.

“He’s a bulldozer, I tell you,” Nancy said proudly. “He’s the man I met, way back when. That guy’s back.”