Coach Epps is back after operation and cardiac rehab

Published 5:22 pm Friday, February 24, 2023

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Suffolk native and physical education teacher Jerald Epps is back on his feet following a coronary artery bypass graft operation in August 2022 and completion of his cardiac rehabilitation in January. 

Once a patient at the Bon Secours Maryview Medical Center in Portsmouth, Epps has now returned to serving the Hampton Roads community as a physical education teacher in Portsmouth.

Celebrating the remainder of February’s Heart Month, Epps looked back on his medical journey and how despite tests telling him he was fine, he knew something wasn’t right.

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“Well it was something that I wasn’t expecting. I started having a little bit of issues every once in a while where I would walk a long distance, I feel a little indigestion,” Epps explained.  “I went to the doctor several times and had a test done and everything was coming out fine. But I went on vacation and had another episode of feeling like I was having a bad case of indigestion, so when I came back I was like ‘No, we have to go further.’”

After pressing the issue, Epps was sent to the heart doctor who sent him to have another test. This revealed that Epps had a blockage.

“Finally they had to do surgery the next day. The process was pretty scary, but they did a good job. And they told me what to expect and it went exactly according to plan,” said Epps.

Epps described his rehabilitation process.

“It was almost like rebuilding your body because when I went in there, I could barely walk, I guess, 25 feet and I would be out of breath, and I was kind of weak,” he said. “They worked with me and I started off on the treadmill barely moving, and doing the bike barely moving until they just kept increasing it and I got better and better. Next thing you know, I could pretty much run.”

Dr. Saumil Patel, Epps’ who serves as an interventionist cardiologist with Bon Secour, explained Epps’ symptoms.

“Mr. Epps had very typical symptoms, which were concerning for coronary artery disease (blockage of heart artery),” Patel said. “He had blockages in heart arteries which required bypass surgery. Every patient who undergoes coronary bypass or coronary stents or has congestive heart failure benefits from cardiac rehab.”

Patel went on to discuss the cardiac rehabilitation process and how it can improve the patient’s heart for the future.

“Cardiac rehab is a medically supervised program designed to improve cardiovascular health if one has experienced heart attack, heart failure, angioplasty or heart surgery,” he said. “It is usually a 12-week program, which involves 36 sessions of supervised cardiac exercise program. It improves cardiovascular health and outcome and also improves functional status of the patient.”

Epps had a message for Dr. Patel for his work. 

“I would like to say thanks so much for diagnosing my problem first of all, and for taking care of me,” Epps said. “I’ve seen people go through the same process that don’t bounce back as fast because the cardiac rehab actually kind of holds you accountable.”

Epss said it requires the patient to do certain activities, such as taking blood pressure daily and tracking weight.

“They’re going to push you because some days you don’t feel like it,” he said.

For those going through similar health issues, Epps had one final message.

“First of all, don’t take ‘no’ for an answer because it took a while for me to convince them that something wasn’t right even though I had two EKGs and they were showing that I was fine,” Epps said. “But pay attention to your body, you know that something that’s not right, then you need to pursue it and make them keep testing you until they find out what it is. And then once they diagnosed it, if you feel comfortable, go ahead and get it fixed.”