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Coy Weldon

  • Author: Coy Weldon
  • Date Submitted: Feb 14, 2018
  • Category: Heart & Vascular

Coy Weldon has twice witnessed a fellow senior softball player die at the field after suffering a heart attack during a game.

The 79-year-old Orange Cove resident believes he avoided a potentially similar catastrophic fate thanks to the efforts of Dr. Leheb Araim and staff at Kaweah Health Medical Center.

"I could have died on the field, very easily," Coy said.

Dr. Araim performed heart surgery on Coy that paved the way for him to return to physical activity. After 36 sessions of work in Kaweah Health's Cardiac Rehabilitation Program, Coy was able to resume his favorite activity – playing senior softball.

"It's nice to see a patient motivated to get better," Dr. Araim said. "That makes a big difference in how well they do."

Coy did not learn of looming heart problems before going to see his doctor for an annual physical in May 2013.

Leading up to the physical, Coy said he was experiencing back pain between his shoulder blades, and that his arms would feel tired after going on his daily mile-long walk. He was also having difficulty mowing his lawn without having to take a break.

"It didn't dawn on me that I was having heart problems," Coy said. "I had the warning signs, I just didn't recognize them at the time."

It only took his doctor, the now-retired Dr. Ihor Kalicinsky, a brief listen on the stethoscope to detect an unusual sound between Coy's heartbeats. He suggested that Coy see a cardiologist.

The cardiologist, Dr. John Lin, found three blockages to Coy's heart and told him he needed surgery.

"I was the most shocked guy in the room when they said I needed heart surgery," said Coy, a then 150-pound, physically-fit, 75-year-old who had been paying softball regularly for more than 50 years.

Coy decided to use Dr. Araim on the recommendation of Mary Staton, a nurse practitioner at Kaweah Health and his wife Carolyn’s niece. Mary assured Coy that he would receive quality care from Dr. Araim at Kaweah Health. The medical center has received Healthgrades' Cardiac Surgery Excellence Award two years in a row.

Dr. Araim performed a roughly 10-hour surgery that encompassed three bypasses - where damaged arteries to the heart are replaced by blood vessels from another area of the patient's body - and the addition of a new aortic valve.

Coy spent 11 days at Kaweah Health before being discharged.

"I was really happy with the care and everything they did for me at Kaweah Health," said Coy, who was so impressed with the performances of Dr. Araim and Kaweah Health that he recommended them to fellow softball player Tom Schneider when he needed heart surgery a couple years later.

After recuperating at home for six weeks, Coy began rehab with a distinct goal in mind: he wanted to play in the Huntsman Senior Games in St. George, Utah, in October that year. Coy, accompanied by Carolyn, had made the trip to play in the senior softball tournament for 13 straight years.

Coy was able to extend his streak to 14 years after working with the team at Kaweah Health Cardiac Rehabilitation to regain the strength and conditioning that he needed to play softball again.

"I really don't think I could have done it on my own," Coy said. "I'm not disciplined enough to make that effort. There's a big difference in walking, and the exercises they put you through that make you exert yourself more than you might at home. It's time well spent. I'd recommend for anyone who has had heart surgery to go to Kaweah Health Cardiac Rehab."

Now 79, Coy continues to play senior softball in a league in Tulare, and just made another trip to the Senior Games in October 2017. He plans to play softball for as long as his health allows.

"That would have been a big loss for me if I couldn't have continued to play ball," Coy said. "I enjoy the camaraderie and the friends I've made from all over the country. We may not see each other but once a year, but we've all got that common thread of softball that we all enjoy. That's what keeps me going back."