Hannibal resident John Akright considers himself a healthy guy. He is only 61 years old, he and his wife Marcy go for walks every day, and both of them keep busy and stay active. He had no idea that he was just days away from needing open-heart surgery. John has no family history of cardiac-related issues, so it never occurred to him that he might be having a heart attack one day in early November 2023. As he sat eating his lunch that day, his throat started to swell shut and his teeth kept hurting. He thought he was having an allergic reaction to something in his food, nuts possibly. John’s wife was at work, and when he called her to tell her what was happening, she became immediately concerned, she told him to head straight to the Emergency Room at Hannibal Regional Hospital.
Once he got there and explained his symptoms, the doctor thought the part about his teeth was odd, and gave John a nitroglycerin pill. Almost immediately John felt better, so the doctor knew that John’s issue was John’s heart-related. He was admitted to the hospital that night, and the next morning John saw Dr. David Lemons to discuss next steps. In many cases a stent can be placed and this tiny, expandable device helps keep the artery from narrowing or closing again. However, in John’s case he was going to need four stents, which complicated his case considerably. After Dr. Lemons explained John’s situation to him, he suggested that John meet with cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Jose Torres, who recently joined the Hannibal Regional Heart Center.
John and his wife met with Dr. Torres and his team the next morning. About that meeting, John says, “Dr. Torres is just so engaging, you can see it in his eyes. Compassion is very evident in both him and everyone on his team. I liked him right away.” Dr. Torres explained to John that open-heart surgery would be his best option due to the number of arteries in his heart that were affected. There are many healthcare facilities that offer this type of procedure, and John could choose wherever he wanted to go. Dr. Torres also told John that Hannibal Regional would be starting their own open heart program, and if he wanted to stay close to home he could be their first patient.
It was a big decision, one that he and Marcy had been completely unprepared to have to make. They discussed it at length, they talked to family members, and they prayed about it. But they kept coming back to how comfortable they felt with Dr. Torres, how good they felt about the whole team and how nice it would be to stay local for this, making it easier to have the support of friends and family. “Dr. Torres was very obviously excited to get the open heart program up and running, but he was even more passionate about getting ME up and running again,” shares John.
So they booked John’s surgery for a few days later, Tuesday, November 14. Despite needing four bypasses, John’s procedure went perfectly. His recovery time was exceptionally fast, he was sitting up and talking later that same day, walking around the next day and discharged that Friday, November 17. Since they live here in Hannibal, the time from discharge to being home and set up comfortably on the couch was just 15 minutes, a factor that was a major plus for someone who had just had major surgery. During John’s time in the hospital, his wife was able to continue working, and numerous friends and family were able to visit him in the hospital, something else that would not have been possible if he had left town for his surgery.
John is back to life as usual, and couldn’t be happier about his decision to have his surgery at Hannibal Regional. “Dr. Torres, the nurses, the staff - EVERYONE is top-notch! With his experience and his compassionate demeanor, I had the utmost confidence in him. Plus it was kind of neat to get to be the first open heart patient here, to help get the program up and going. My wife and I have always had great care from the providers here and I knew this time would be no different,” says John.
For more information about the Hannibal Regional Heart Center, call (573) 629-3960.