Isabell's Heart Story

Jun 6, 2019

Cardiac Operating Room to Gardening Again

It was going to be a hot one in Merced on July 10, so Isabell Bedolla was up early – 4:30 a.m. early – to get into her garden.

“I wanted to make sure I watered early in the morning,” she said. “I had to care for my garden, water my hanging plants and replace the batteries in some hanging solar lights I have around the patio. So I was hauling around a heavy ladder to do that.”

Isabell, 57, had just been to her family doctor for a checkup earlier in the week, so when she finished her gardening and felt some discomfort in her chest, she initially thought she’d just overdone it with the ladder.

Then the fingertips of her right hand started tingling, and Isabell knew something was wrong. When her doctor’s office opened at 8a.m., she called to see if she should come in. They told her to go to the emergency room. She did, sort of.

“I didn’t want to go to the hospital in Merced, so I got in my car and drove to Emanuel Medical Center,” she said. “Because I didn’t know the facility, when I got there I walked in the front entrance and asked how to get to the emergency room.”

The front desk staff quickly got a nurse, and Isabell was in the emergency room moments later. Her blood tests showed she had a mild heart attack that morning, and Isabell soon found herself in the Emanuel’s Cardiac Cath and Interventional Lab for an angioplasty procedure to open her clogged heart arteries.

Interventional cardiologist Dr. Reza Nazari performed the procedure, discovering one of Isabell’s arteries was 80 percent clogged, and other arteries more than 70 percent stenosis. She would need open-heart surgery.

“I’m very, very religious,” Isabell said. “I pray. I told my husband, ‘If it’s my time, it’s my time.’”

With her faith in the Lord and the medical staff at Emanuel, Isabell went into surgery the next day without a lot of fear. Cardiac surgeon Dr. Noel Concepcion performed the quadruple bypass in Emanuel’s purpose-built Justin Ferrari Cardiac Operating Suite, using an artery from her left chest and veins from her legs to perform the bypasses that diverted blood around her blocked coronary arteries. “The surgery went flawlessly,” said Dr. Concepcion.  

“I don’t remember much for a while, but when I woke up I wasn’t on a respirator,” she said. “I was very impressed there was a nurse in my room the whole time.”

Isabell took charge of her recovery. 

“I walked the next day, then kept doing laps,” she said. “Five days after surgery, that was it and I went home.”

She kept up the activity, though, walking and climbing a few stairs.

“I know what I have to do,” she said. “I used to weigh 300 pounds, but had gotten down to 180 before my heart attack. I know what I should eat and shouldn’t eat, and I walk every day and do more as I’m able.”

And that includes her garden. Her husband Cesar had kept the plants watered while Isabell was in the hospital and recovering, but the garden was ready for some serious pruning and care when Isabell got back to it.

“It had gotten a little out of hand,” she said. “But it’s all trimmed and clean now, all my plants and flowers. Everything came out OK.”