Peter Wilkes woke up in recovery at Silver Cross Hospital with his wife Sarah and his cardiologist looking over him.
“The doctor said to me, ‘This is either the best day of your life, or the worst.’”
Wilkes, Chief of the Criminal Division for the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office, was in for surgery last October to repair blocked arteries. Before surgery, Dr. Pappas and his team found severe blockage in all major arteries, requiring a quadruple bypass.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said Wilkes, 57, of Frankfort. “I come from an athletic family. I run and I power lift with my 19-year-old son.”
In early 2020, Wilkes began to notice pressure in his chest when he would run even less than a mile.
“I would stop, let it pass and keep running,” said the father of five, and a former athlete accustomed to pushing through pain.
When the symptoms didn’t pass, Wilkes’ wife, a nurse, said he’d better get it checked out. His primary care physician, Dr. Mike DeMaertelaere, referred him to a cardiologist.
When tests showed Wilkes had significant blockages, his cardiologist had him make an appointment with Dr. Patroklos (Pat) Pappas, a cardiovascular thoracic surgeon at Silver Cross.
Even though Wilkes is among his younger patients, Dr. Pappas noted he leads a stressful life as a lawyer, father, and husband. He also had high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels. There was coronary artery disease and cerebrovascular disease on his father’s side, which may have also contributed.
Dr. Pappas and his team performed the quadruple bypass, which he said Wilkes tolerated very well.
“Under the surgical team, cardiovascular unit and rehabilitation staff, he quickly recuperated and was able to go home four days after the surgery,” Dr. Pappas said. “It is imperative that he continues to take all of his medicine for his cholesterol, blood pressure, and an aspirin every day. This will help prevent future disease progression.”
Wilkes said he was told that new growth of blood vessels helped keep blood pumping to his heart, preventing a heart attack and permanent damage. Maybe it was the exercise and relatively healthy diet that kept him going.
“Last summer, I was running sprints at the park. I could have dropped right there from a ‘widow-maker.’ I am extremely lucky and thankful to the Man Upstairs.”
The bypass had immediate success.
“My wife told me right after surgery, I looked great. Each day I felt better. I wasn’t tired at the end of the day. And I can run 30 minutes without a problem. I can’t tell you how great I feel.”
Soon after discharge, he was set up with cardiac rehab three times a week. He said the staff has been wonderful.
“The nurses, the operating room staff, the cardiac unit nurses, all could not have been nicer, more helpful or more considerate.”
Wilkes knows he was lucky. He urges people with any symptoms not to brush them off.
“I know people in our community who succumbed to sudden heart attacks,” he said. “After my surgery, wives of friends were saying, ‘That’s it. My husband is getting checked out now!”
For more information, call 815-300-SCAN (7226), or visit www.silvercross.org/heart.
Silver Cross Hospital
1900 Silver Cross Blvd
New Lenox, IL 60541