Ken Brader can run through his accomplished history as easily as his trumpet can run up a scale. He earned a degree in performance and toured with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and Glenn Miller Orchestra.
After returning to the area, he taught lessons at the local music store his grandfather and father operated and continued teaching after the shop closed. He was lead trumpet for the Philly Pops, toured the world with various ensembles and performed on countless records, one of which won a Grammy.
But his career shifted when diabetes robbed him of his eyesight.
In March 2012, he woke one morning and was unable to see. Two operations helped restore a trace amount of vision, but not enough for him to read the sheet music that has stood before him for decades.
Making matters worse? A heart attack in the fall of 2014.
"For a week, I was winded and couldn't catch my breath," he says. But it wasn't his breath at all. It was congestive heart failure.
Ken needed triple bypass surgery and a new aortic valve.
Like his sight, Ken was struggling with other diabetes-related conditions. A leg ulcer became four foot surgeries. After two years of chronic infection, it was clear: the leg needed to be amputated.
Ken's infectious disease physician, general surgeon and cardiothoracic surgeon all met to discuss his case. Open heart surgeon, Richard Angelico, MD, didn't think Ken's heart would survive an amputation.
The others agreed. Heart surgery would have to come first.
"Dr. Angelico spent time talking to me," Ken says. "He got to know me and asked about my career in addition to addressing my health issues. He saw me as a real person."
Ken's severe sleep apnea had him worried about a lengthy surgery. But Dr. Angelico took it upon himself to bring in an esophageal specialist to ensure surgery would go smoothly.
"Dr. Angelico always went the extra mile to improve the quality of my life," Ken says. "He even told me that he looked forward to the day I would play again."
The eight hour open heart surgery went well.
"In the operating room, it was like Dr. Angelico was the maestro, conducting an ensemble of talented people," Ken says. "I felt loved by him and his staff."
About a month after surgery Ken was able to pick up his trumpet again. He gradually got strong enough to perform at the wedding of a student. Ken filled the sanctuary with the sounds of Trumpet Voluntary.
"When you have taught for forty years like I have, you get to create some strong relationships with gifted performers," Ken says.
But none were as good as Dr. Angelico.
Ken is back to teaching lessons and putting on shows where he plays by memory. And every December, Ken conducts a holiday brass concert with his 50-piece group. The group only plays arrangements Ken has written exclusively for them. He's glad to be performing, listening to others play and hearing the applause of a rapt audience.
"Dr. Angelico gave me back my life," Ken says. "I'm very grateful for the personal care and professional expertise of Dr. Angelico and the other physicians at Easton Hospital. I can't imagine being as happy anywhere else."
250 South 21st Street
Easton, PA 18042-3892