If you went to Alex Gale's house on a Saturday morning, it'd be filled with family. His wife, four daughters and five grandchildren would be sitting around the kitchen table chewing the fat about politics, health and world events.
While they discuss, bicker and laugh, Alex would be cooking them a low-fat, low-salt, heart-healthy breakfast. It's a diet he follows after his cardiac bypass in 2012. He had eight blockages that he almost refused to believe existed until he saw proof.
Why such doubt? Alex has worked hard his entire life and never had a serious health issue. Plus he was feeling on top of the world the day he had his silent heart attack.
In September of 2012 on a day trip to Harrisburg with his wife, they had lunch and walked the town but Alex couldn't stop belching. "I had terrible indigestion, so I took a Pepcid," Alex says. "But it didn't help."
On their drive home, they almost stopped at Easton Hospital, but Alex decided he'd go in the morning. After a night of discomfort, he went to his primary care physician who ordered an EKG and blood work.
Two hours later, Alex got the call that he'd had a heart attack and needed to get to the Easton Hospital Emergency Department immediately.
He couldn't believe the news. "I had no shortness of breath," he says. "Or arm, neck or chest pain."
When he arrived, the team was ready. As an accredited Chest Pain Center, the Easton Hospital cardiac team follows strict protocols in order to clear blockages within specific timelines. The national average is 90 minutes, but Easton Hospital's average is under 60 minutes.
"I had six people working on me the moment I came through the door," he says. "I was impressed at the efficiency and kindness of the staff. They were a great bunch of people."
Alex had eight blockages, but he still wanted proof. When he saw the image, his disbelief quickly turned into acceptance. He then wanted a clear course of action.
Stents were an option, but placing eight could lead to issues down the road. Bypass surgery was another option. While a bypass was more complicated, the results could be longer lasting.
"'Let's do it now' is what I remember saying," Alex says. But cardiothoracic surgeon Richard Angelico, MD, told him to slow down. Alex was put on blood thinners when he arrived at the hospital, so he needed them out of his system before surgery was possible.
He spent those days being monitored at Easton Hospital. "The staff were fantastic," he says. "Even the guy cleaning the floors would say 'Hello, Mr. Gale.' That really impressed me."
Alex's surgery went well. He felt good, and as an inpatient for the next five days, he was motivated. "I pushed myself to get up and start walking," he says. "Each day I must have taken 100 trips from one end of the hall to the other."
Not surprising. See Alex has lived a life of focus and drive. He worked at Ingersoll- Rand for 29 years as the director of corporate facilities, building major projects all over the world. "I'm a bit of a perfectionist," he says.
He also has a love of sports cars, specifically the Shelby GT500 Super Snake. "I like to go fast," he says.
By day five, he was cruising up and down the stairs. It's the same sort of ambition that has made him a star at cardiac rehabilitation.
"I like to put in the effort," he says. So three days a week, he's there working out under the watchful eye of the exercise physiologists. "I trust Pam, Katie and Jason," he says. "I can get weights and machines anywhere, but I come here for the team. They are professional, caring - a true extension of my family."
So don't be surprised if you head to his place for Saturday breakfast and see the Easton Hospital team sitting down to a hearty breakfast that he's whipped up.
250 South 21st Street
Easton, PA 18042-3892