A man’s life can be measured by the love he shares with his friends and family. But for Brian Leavitt, what time he had left with his loved ones could have been counted in struggling, breathless steps to his mailbox.
“About 180 feet. And I just had to take a break. That’s when I realized yeah, I may have something going on,” said Brian. “I was toughing it out and pretending that it’s not but I was.”
See, Brian’s heart was failing.
And according to Diane, his wife of 41 years, Brian’s heart was weak but his head was strong.
“I’d been telling him that he needed to go see the doctor, that his tiredness and lack of energy, you know, wasn’t normal,” said Diane.
Brian and Diane have the healthiest of relationships: 41 years of marriage, four kids, two grandchildren. He’s built a successful real estate business. They’re also KIRO 7 viewers.
“I saw the story you did about your experience,” said Brian. “The thing that struck me was something you said.”
If you don’t already know, I had quadruple bypass surgery in April.
KIRO 7 anchor Monique Ming Laven asked me what I wanted to learn from the experience. And that was to listen to your body. If your doctor doesn’t listen to you, find another doctor.
“Then I thought ok,” said Brian. “The next morning I called the doctor and got an appointment with his assistant that afternoon.”
He went to Virginia Mason in Issaquah just to make sure everything was ok. The problem was, it wasn’t.
“Had me run to the lab and get an EKG. A couple of minutes later, she comes back walking into the room and she was clearly upset,” said Brian. “She says we need to get you to the hospital right now.”
Diane got the news and she had to drive Brian up to the Swedish Emergency Room, where a cardiac team was assembled to take care of Brian right away.
“They were very clear this was serious,” said Diane. “Well, it was that reality that this is life, this really is life-threatening.”
Brian says his heart rate was down to less than 30 beats per minute.
“He essentially had an electrical problem,” said Dr. Howard Lewis, Brian’s cardiologist. “The wiring that connects the top to the middle to the bottom of the heart and allows the heart to work in a synchronous fashion and predictable fashion was not functioning properly.”
That night while in the hospital, Brian sent me this message:
“Thank you for sharing your story. I’m writing this from the ICU at Swedish Hospital. I didn’t feel right so I took your advice and saw my primary care Dr. Sent me straight to the ER. I am expecting to have an excellent outcome.”
The next morning, Brian received a pacemaker. The device got his heartbeat back on track.
“As soon as my heart started working properly, I felt great,” said Brian.
Bottom line is, if you feel bad, make sure you tell someone and see a doctor.
“It’s good to be seen, ‘cause if I put this off, I may not be here. So I would reiterate your message to every guy who thinks he’s a tough guy, go see your doctor if you don’t feel right,” said Brian. “Worst case is you get checked. Best case is you get your life saved.”
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