A Prime Suspect for Cardiac Arrest

How one Jackson County Deputy Sheriff walks to a new beat following double bypass surgery

Robert Lambeth never considered himself a “doctor” person. For more than fifty years, Robert thought of himself as a pretty healthy person. Only in the last three or four years had he been diagnosed with high blood pressure and high cholesterol, but even then he wasn’t worried.

That was until he began experiencing severe headaches off and on for a period of two weeks last July. After days of discomfort, he awoke one morning with additional symptoms including dizziness and vomiting, and immediately drove himself to the Ocean Springs Hospital Emergency Room.

There he was admitted for a series of tests and later referred to cardiologist Dr. Russell Reed of Singing River Health System. It was during the heart catheterization procedure that Dr. Reed discovered two blocked arteries in his heart that would need repair, and referred him to Dr. Robert Johnson, board certified in thoracic surgery, to perform the procedure.

Deputy Sheriff Robert Lambeth reunites with his heart physician team – cardiologist Dr. Russell Reed (left) of Southern Mississippi Heart Center and cardiac surgeon Dr. Robert Johnson (right) of The Center for Cardiovascular Surgery.

“Dr. Johnson spent more than thirty minutes showing me my heart issue and going through the surgery step by step,” said Robert. “His calm and articulate explanation completely lifted any anxiety I had. I was completely confident about literally putting my heart into his hands.”

Robert underwent Double Bypass Surgery, also known as Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting (CABG). The procedure creates a new path for blood to flow to the heart. The surgeon takes a healthy piece of vein from the leg or artery from the chest or wrist. Then the surgeon attaches it to the coronary artery, just above and below the narrowed area or blockage. This allows blood to bypass the blockage. Sometimes people need more than one bypass, such as Robert, who needed two.

His surgery took place on a Tuesday, and due to Robert’s participation in the recovery process, was allowed to return home on the following Saturday.

“I think I surprised Dr. Johnson and the nurses by the way I got after it,” said Robert. “But I always say you have two choices in life–you can be the driver or the passenger. I want to be the driver of my life.”

During his hospital stay in ICU and after, Robert was very pleased and surprised at the level of care he received by Singing River Health System team members.

“Honestly, I was treated like I was at a nice hotel,” said Robert. “There was a recliner, I ordered food off a menu–and not one person made me feel uncomfortable during my entire stay.
From the doctors and nurses to the food staff, I could not have been treated any better.”

As weeks passed, Robert realized just how much better he felt than before he had the surgery. His energy doubled, his blood pressure and cholesterol dropped and by changing his eating habits to a sensible plan, he lost 30 pounds.

“I really feel like a new man,” said Robert. “They even had to order me a new uniform because my old one no longer fit.”

Today Robert continues to serve Jackson County, thankful for his experience for not only his sake but for that of his wife and family. For others who may not like to go see doctors, or tend to make light of nagging symptoms, he advises not to ignore it.

“Go get it checked out–and if you need to take high blood pressure medicine, listen to the doctors,” said Robert. “I am so thankful for my physician team – Dr. Ivey, Dr. Reed and Dr. Johnson. They all went that extra mile to find and solve the problem.”

Discover more about the services provided by Singing River Health System heart and vascular services.