In December of 2009, Hughe went home following a 12 hour shift and went to bed. He was awakened a couple hours later complaining of chest pain. There wasn’t any shooting pain down his left arm; no discomfort in his jaw. There was just this feeling like he had pulled a muscle in his chest. His oldest son drove him to Guam Memorial Hospital where they determined he was having a heart attack. Guam did not have a cardiologist at the time and so the local doctors and nurses worked to stabilize him. In 2009, there was a coronary team that serviced the island that came out of Merced, CA, twice a year. It was determined that Hughe was a good candidate for surgery, so in March of 2010, when Dr. Noel Conception made his next visit, he performed a Quadruple Coronary Artery Bypass Graft (CABG X4) on Hughe. He was 51 years old. Living on Guam at the time, had Hughe not qualified for the surgery, his only hope would have been to travel to Jamaica and have his surgery there. Unfortunately, he couldn’t afford the travel or the charges. So, it was a blessing that Hughe was able to qualify and could hold on until the cardiac team arrived. While Dr. Conception lived in California, he was originally from Guam, and responsible for organizing the cardiac team that visited Guam twice each year.
But Hughe, was far from out of the woods. His family had a large history of heart disease and diabetes. Today, he is 59, and lives in a south Seattle suburb. Currently, he is uninsured and cannot afford to see a cardiologist or pay for the medications he should be taking. He has a bright and hopeful outlook, though his future remains uncertain. He has type 2 diabetes, which places him at even greater risk.
Unfortunately, heart disease often affects people as they are entering their retirement years, when they can no longer afford good health care. Even a low dose Staten can quite expensive, and certainly out of reach for many of those struggling to deal with the left over effects of heart disease. Can we do better? Can we do more? We all live with uncertainty, but for people like Hughe, the uncertainty of life is compounded.