In early 2015, George Schulle started planning an April 2016 dive trip to the Raja Ampat Islands in Indonesia. Located in Southeast Asia between the Indian and Pacific oceans, the collection of islands is known for its extremely diverse marine life. It is a top destination for the serious SCUBA diver.
A diver for 35 years and an instructor for 30, George has been on thousands of dives throughout the world, where he pursues his passion for photographing sea creatures and coral reefs.
In January 2016, his underwater aspirations were interrupted. A storm dumped two feet of snow on the Bucks County area, and George started to shovel the walkway around his Warminster home, as he'd done many times before. He felt light-headed and short of breath with discomfort in his chest.
"I knew something was wrong," says George, an athletic 68-year-old. He called his doctor, who told him to go to Doylestown Hospital. A cardiac catheterization revealed George had two clogged coronary arteries (the blood vessels that supply the heart). He needed bypass surgery to create a new path for blood to flow to his heart.
In the face of open-heart surgery, George told his doctors that he had a goal — to make his trip to Raja Ampat. Although this trip was just two months away, his care team was cautious, but encouraging.
"Nobody ever said, 'You can't do this,'" says George. "Everybody was working to get me to the point where I could do what I wanted."
On February 8, 2016, Doylestown Health cardiothoracic surgeon James McClurken, MD, performed double bypass surgery and, after several days in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit, George returned home.
With his April trip on the horizon, George wanted to be sure he’d be fit for his adventure. The itinerary included 31 dives planned over 10 days, and he would be staying on a boat eight hours away from medical facilities.
He followed doctor's orders and participated in the Cardiac Rehabilitation program at Doylestown Hospital, exercising under the close supervision of rehab specialists. Once he felt strong enough, George started walking for exercise with a friend. After successfully passing a stress test, he was cleared for the trip.
"When I got in the water, everything was back to normal. If I hadn’t had that surgery, I probably would have died on that trip," says George, who continues to swim, work out at the gym and plan future dive trips.
"I appreciate how the Heart Institute team got me back to doing what I love."
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About Doylestown Health's Heart Institute
Expert cardiologists and cardiac surgeons assist patients and physicians with managing risk factors for heart disease, offer advanced treatment options and provide outstanding emergency cardiac care. The multidisciplinary team at the Heart Institute is dedicated to providing the highest level of quality care and patient safety.
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