Triathlete Bike Surgeon Never Thought She Would Need a Heart Surgeon

Triathlete Bike Surgeon Never Thought She Would Need a Heart Surgeon

Cynthia “Cid” Bauer is a budding triathlete who works part time at the Bike Surgeon in O’Fallon, Illinois, but she never imagined that she would need a heart surgeon.

How is it that this 5’ 2” woman who has run 32 half marathons, bikes long distances for events like the week-long Des Moines Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, and enjoys open water swimming suddenly found herself needing a quadruple bypass?

A change in routine

As Cid tells her story there was no specific event; she didn’t have a heart attack. Although her mother suffered a heart attack in her 50s, Cid was only having some indications of high blood pressure and felt very healthy. She is 61, a type 1 diabetic on an insulin pump, and very fitness conscious. However, she recalls three years ago when she was experiencing challenges in her running routine.

“I was running more slowly, found my distance decreasing, and I was getting winded,” she said. “My primary care physician and two cardiologists told me I was dehydrated and that I should be more mindful of fluid intake.” But because of her health practices she was also more attuned to her body and sensed that continual uneasiness that something was just not right.

Shortly after this Cid broke an ankle and had to take time off. As part of her recovery she took up swimming, so when her ankle healed she started training for and participating in sprint triathlons, which are fun and short triathlons. But while working to return to her pre-accident conditioning level, she experienced her previous symptoms of slower pace, decreased distance, and less lung capacity.

Diagnosing the problem

“I was more than a little disappointed that these symptoms persisted, but I wanted to understand why,” she said. Cid returned to her physician and cardiologist, and a subsequent EKG test showed some irregularities, and a nuclear stress test also indicated some abnormalities.

Cid was offered the option to take some medications to treat her symptoms or a cardiac catheter procedure to determine the possible cause of the abnormalities. She opted for the latter. Dr. Prasad Kandula, an interventional cardiologist with Memorial Medical Group, performed the cardiac cath on February 23 at Memorial Hospital Belleville and delivered the news that she needed a quadruple bypass.

“Needless to say, I was in shock!” said Cid. “From what I understand, my heart had 100 percent blockage on one side and 85 percent on the other. But because I have a relatively healthy lifestyle, my heart had grown its own, but inefficient, bypasses, which saved it from further damage and possible heart attack.”

Emergency surgery and rehabilitation Dr. John Sadoff, a cardiothoracic surgeon with the Heart and Vascular Center of Excellence, and his team performed emergency surgery on Cid the next morning. 

Cid said of the experience, “If I didn’t have this scar to look at every morning, I would not have believed this all happened. I feel better now than before surgery and very fortunate the blockages were discovered.”

After surgery, she spent a couple of days in the ICU, where she said she received excellent care. 

“I received a lot of encouragement while in the ICU to begin walking as soon as I could, and a physical therapist visited to show me some additional exercises,” Cid said. Before she was discharged, a member of the Cardiac Rehabilitation staff provided her a booklet of exercises and a chart to monitor her progress to prepare for a more formal rehab program.

Two months later, she entered the Cardiac Rehabilitation program where she worked out on different pieces of exercise equipment. She attended the program on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for one hour per week for 12 weeks.

Cid appreciated the staff’s encouragement and positive energy. “I was able to work with Barb Masters and each of her staff, and each visit they set me up for a new challenge,” she said. They also monitored her blood pressure, heart rate, her own rate of perceived exertion, and blood glucose levels to ensure she wasn’t under or over doing her level of exercise.

Cid said close monitoring was of great benefit in her recovery. “The feedback from the heart and blood pressure monitors as well as the blood glucose meter helped me learn how my body responds to various activities,” she said.

Taking it one step at a time

Since her graduation from Cardiac Rehabilitation, Cid has reunited with her friends in the running clubs she belongs to, the Road Warriors in the Metro East and the St. Louis Front Runners. These runners continue their support throughout her recovery.

Prior to her surgery, she had registered to run a half marathon in Fargo, North Dakota. She decided to take a step back and instead complete a 5K course. She didn’t do it alone. Eleven Road Warriors and Front Runners came to walk that first 5K with her. They all wore shirts that read, “I Love Cid,” and her shirt read, “I am Cid.”

“It was incredible and healing to complete that first 5K with so many friends,” she recalled. Cid also said it was heartwarming to be joined by a friend who had a heart transplant. She had accompanied him previously on his first half  marathon after surgery. Together they will run her first half marathon in Grand Rapids, Michigan, this October.

Her employer, the Bike Surgeon, also aided in her recovery by lending her a step-through bicycle. This helped her get back in the saddle without worrying about putting too much pressure on her chest, which would have been a concern when leaning on the handle bars of her road bike.

Support during and after surgery

Cid appreciates all the support her spouse Lisa received during her surgery, especially from Hospital Chaplain Reverend Cari Frus, her current primary care physician assistant and triathlete Bob Dizes, and a caring group of friends. They sat with Lisa for eight hours during surgery, made meals, visited Cid daily at home to assist her, and even made a special purple camouflage pillow for her to protect her chest as it healed.

Just like a bike wheel has the hub and many spokes to support it to keep moving—Cid has many friends and had excellent caregivers to keep her moving too! Now she can continue doing the things she loves to do and being with people she loves to be with!

Words to live by

Cid’s recent Facebook post and advice to others is: “Diabetes is one of the leading causes of heart disease and heart disease is the leading cause of death in women in the United States. Two-thirds of women who die of sudden coronary heart disease have no symptoms. Please take care, and listen to your body. You know when something is not quite right.”