Chester Wyers Jr., Heart Bypass Surgery

Chester "Chet" Wyers knew something was not right.

An avid slow-pitch softball player who travels the country in search of top-notch competition, Wyers opted out of practice sessions earlier this spring.

"I just didn't feel right," said the 65-year-old Augusta resident.

The fatigue was similar to the way he had felt two years earlier when an exam led to the need for a procedure called balloon angioplasty where a cardiologist put in stents to prop open narrowed heart arteries. He also needed a stent in an artery that feeds blood to one of his two kidneys as part of an effort to lower his blood pressure.

When the fatigue returned this spring, Wyers visited his physician at the Borgess Heart Institute who found that while Wyers had not had a heart attack, he did need bypass surgery. The place in the heart arteries where the stents had been implanted had become plugged.

"I was real scared," he said of the days leading to the operation. "This kind of surgery is the real deal."

Yet Wyers figured that the same factors at work in a successful softball game would be to his benefit in the operating room.

"In softball, just like in surgery, success is a team effort," he said. "Everybody has to be on the same page. When you have good doctors and a good medical team you shouldn't have to worry about it.

"I had good doctors."

On March 20, Dr. Michael Khaghany grafted three bypass blood vessels in Wyer's heart. Prior to the surgery, Khaghany told his patient that the operation had a 98%-success rate. "Those were pretty good odds," Wyers said.

The surgery was at Borgess Medical Center where Wyers recovered under the watchful eyes of nurses and other medical professionals -- more members of that team.

"It hurt and some times I just wanted to stay in bed," Wyers said. "But the nurses had me get up and walk and they were right. I liked the nurses. They were great."

"I'm thankful for all the people there who pulled together."

Wyers' recovery at Borgess was a return visit. He was born there on Sept. 1, 1940, and knew that if he ever needed hospital care that Borgess was his first choice. "I wouldn't go anywhere else," he said.

Wyers played sports at Battle Creek High School and remained physically active through his college years and to the present. He worked at Post Cereals in Battle Creek and his only health problem was a diagnosis of diabetes when he was age 50.

"When you get older you do get health problems," he said. "But I never thought I'd have heart problems. It was a shocker to me."

Wyers' goal is to recuperate quickly enough to play in a softball tournament in Columbus, Ohio, in mid-July. He is dedicated to the rehabilitation efforts monitored by the professionals at the Borgess Health and Fitness Center, where he works out for one hour three times a week.

"They monitor you and they set goals for you," he said of yet another part of that team effort. "I like to set goals and I do what I have to do in rehab. I watch my diet and I get exercise."

Wyers isn't ready to play ball yet. A member of the 65-and-older Michigan Spirits softball team, he attends practices and helps coach first base. He has even tossed the ball around underhanded, with his teammates' support.

"You have to have support from other people and that's what Borgess does," he said. "I couldn't do it alone."