Disease Proof

Bypass Surgery

In January I interviewed Ronnie, who had quadruple heart bypass surgery at the relatively young age of 46. On the member center of DrFuhrman.com I recently asked him to describe what the surgery was like, and requested that he “spare no details.” All of us were deeply moved by his story, and Dr. Fuhrman suggested that I post it here on Disease Proof. Dr. Fuhrman also stated that bypass surgeries are performed all over the country, every hour of every day; and that this suffering can be completely avoided. May we all wake up to the serious reality of eating disease promoting foods.

patient after heart bypass surgery

What were the few days leading up to your surgery like?

My addictions and health had deteriorated to the point that when I ate, I would have difficulty breathing. I couldn’t do the simplest of tasks (shower, take out the trash, move furniture, mop or vacuum the floor) without being out of breath. My entire body hurt continuously. I had bleeding hemorrhoids and had to wear protection that often wasn't adequate. Every time I went to the doctor, about every two weeks, he would look at me and shake his head in disgust as he wrote out a new or stronger prescription. Every time he listed the same reason for my infirmities: morbid obesity.

I was taking high doses of two, powerful blood pressure medications and was prescribed the third because it was still high, 161/110. I knew I was in trouble. In the few days preceding my surgery, I remember feeling impending doom. I shucked it off like I always did thinking in the end I would get everything right with a pill or a sudden burst of self will. On September 8, 2005, I ate a heavy lunch and then went to my office and sat down at the computer. I felt discomfort in my chest, but it wasn’t severe so I thought it was indigestion. It got a little stronger so I told my staff that I was going home. I was awakened the next morning by chest pain that was more severe, and it wouldn’t go away. I went to the local hospital and was sent home after a battery of tests which they forwarded to my doctor.

My doctor called on Saturday at 8pm and told me to go immediately to a specific emergency room in Dallas that specializes in heart care. They took one look at me and the symptoms I was presenting and admitted me. I remember the doctor bending over me, and in a solemn tone said, “Mr. Valentine, I’m so, so sorry, but you’re going to have to have bypass surgery, and you’re going to have it quickly.” Needless to say my wife and I were devastated.

Please explain what bypass surgery was like.

I can’t begin to explain all the images and thoughts that ran through my head as I awaited open heart surgery. The regrets of past actions weighed heavily on my heart. I felt utterly hopeless and full of self disdain.  Plus, it was humiliating to be shaved from head to toe by two aides who were more concerned with the way their kids had been misbehaving than the patient who was facing the most traumatic event of his life. 

Right before being transferred to the operating room, I asked to see my wife, kids and brother. They were standing by my side as I explained what I wanted in the event the surgery didn't go well. I made it clear that I didn’t want to remain on life-support, and told them how much I loved them. As they were leaving the room, I called my brother aside, grabbed his hand, and felt his strength as he clasped my hand. I pulled him close and looked deep into his tear filled eyes and said, "Gary, you will be the one that has to make the call. Peggy will not have the strength." We put our foreheads together and shared one of the deepest, most heartfelt moments that I have ever experienced. Neither one of us could speak, but volumes were communicated in that utter silence.

I was ready. I called for the techs, and as they began to transfer me to the gurney, I tried to rise up a little and my back suddenly cramped. I exclaimed, "My back is cramping" but they just laughed it off and said, "Pretty soon you won't be feeling anything."

In the OR they transferred me to a stainless steel slab, and I keep telling them that my back was cramping in a full spasm and that I needed to sit up to relieve it. They wouldn’t let me due to all the needles and wires hooked up to me. So I suffered in excruciating pain while staring at the bright light overhead.

Next, the doctor put a mask on my face and said, “This will take care of your pain and give you relief.”  I said a prayer, pictured my wife in my mind, and then closed my eyes...

The next thing I recall was the most exhilarating thing I've ever heard: my name!

My wife and the nurses were calling my name in the recovery room. I had survived! I was given a new lease on life; a new chance, and I was ready for anything . . . so I thought.

That joyful moment was overcome with excruciating pain in my back. My spasm was still there after five hours of surgery!  Then I felt like I was choking to death because of the ventilating tube that was stuck down my throat. The back spasm would not let my lungs expand enough to get a good breath. When I tried, I would get a sharp pain that would stop my lungs from expanding and filling with air. I desperately tried to communicate this to the nurses, but they just blew it off as me wanting the tube out of my throat, which is normal for everyone after surgery.

I was strapped to the bed. I couldn’t move for over eight hours while feeling the awful cramping, coupled with the fact that I couldn’t breathe. I felt like I’d been buried alive. When they finally took the tube out, and let me sit up, my spasm immediately went away. 

Then I was transported to a hospital room for the arduous task of recovery.

Six days afterwards, the surgeon came into my room to examine me, and after pushing on my chest, he made the decision to operate again to re-secure my chest bone because one of the wires had given way.

I had no choice. I had to undergo another major surgery.


Almost three years later, Ronnie had to have three stents put into an artery, and was sent home to die.  The next morning he awoke at 3am with more chest pain so he typed “reverse heart disease” into his computer’s search engine.  That day, July 10, 2008, he discovered Dr. Fuhrman’s web site and embraced the high nutrient eating-style.  Today, Ronnie is the epitome of health and fitness.  Not only did he lose 140 lbs, but he is now free from all medications, surgical procedures and dependence upon doctors.  He is now well! 

                      male before after pic

Imagine if Ronnie had found Dr. Fuhrman earlier, none of this would’ve been necessary. When the nation learns about how effective Dr. Fuhrman’s nutritarian diet is to rapidly reverse even very advanced heart disease, who in their right mind would choose bypass surgery? 


image credit: surgery, 62mileclub.com

Trackbacks (0) Links to blogs that reference this article Trackback URL
Comments (16) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Molly - April 8, 2010 9:59 AM

What a powerful story. I hope it gives hopes to those who think there are no alternatives and gives pause to those headed in Ronnie's direction of bypass surgery. Ronnie, congratulations on completely turning your health around with Dr. Fuhrman's help. Fantastic!

beth colonna - April 8, 2010 10:40 AM

wow. this story brought tears to my eyes. tears of joy for Ronnies amazing recovery and tears of frustration for a society that refuses to see the truth.

Karen Harris - April 8, 2010 12:42 PM

This story made me cry, too. Ronnie, you don't even look like the same person anymore. You look like a much younger man. Thank you for sharing your story and inspiring us all.

Deanie - April 8, 2010 1:49 PM

I followed Ronnie's story from the day he joined Dr. Fuhrman's forum. Everyday I would anxiously check his progress, knowing that if he was following Dr. Fuhrman's advice to the letter, he would experience great things! Boy, did he ever! After all this time, I still get tears in my eyes when I reread his story. Yes, a powerful story! If only others had the drive, perseverance and most importantly, Dr. Fuhrman's knowledge and guidance.
Knowledge is POWER!!

Ginger - April 8, 2010 5:43 PM

Wonderful transformation! It must have been so hard. I love eating this way and exercising, too. You inspire me even more.

isabel - April 8, 2010 10:57 PM

ronnie..you continue to inspire

you're awesome!

Rod - April 9, 2010 2:18 PM

Wow! What a transformation. Ronnie's hair even changed color

Patty - April 9, 2010 4:41 PM

I was a criticial care RN who worked in the Open Heart Surgery ICU. I took care of people immediately after bypass sugery for many, many years. It is a place you dont want to be as a pt. I would typically have a pt connected to many dif't IV drips/medications. IVs/lines/monitors would go into their neck. Lines in their arteries. Staples(or now... See More glue) down their chest incision. Tubes down their nose. A tube down their throat for breathing. I would suction sputum out of their breathing tubes since you cant cough it out. All the pt's modesty was gone. Families were at the bedside so upset & I found myself counseliing them.
Funny thing is after such an ordeal, in a day or 2 when they started eating again they were served such unhealthy meals! I'll never forget the 1 pt who told me as he was eating his swedish meatballs in buttered noodles how happy he was to have his heart fixed because now he can eat what he wants! He was completing his menu for the next day; scrambled eggs and bacon for breakfast! (yes, this is off the hospital menu!) Bypass surgery does not cure you. It just bypasses a blocked artery. If one continues on a self destructive path more blockages will occur. Pts are poorly educated post-op

shels - April 10, 2010 12:33 AM

I have come to terms with the fact that I am a food addict. Not sure if this is a "true" addiction, but I am not sure how to begin to get it under control. My life revolves around food and tons of soda.

Wonderful post!!! Way to go!

Emily Boller - April 10, 2010 8:37 AM

Thanks Patty for posting that eye-opening comment - bypass surgery is such a traumatic event.

Shels, oh my, food addiction is as true of an addiction and alcohol, drugs, nicotene, or any other life-destroying, relationship-destroying, health-destroying addiction. If you could only get a glimpse of the suffering that goes on behind the closed doors of American homes due to food addiction - it's real - very real. It has ruined some lives to the extent Dads and Moms don't even have the strength or ability to fix a decent meal for their children anymore. Children are left to totally fend for themselves and are neglected due to the all-consuming addiction. Food addiction is progressive. Unless radically stopped, it only gets worse. However, the great news is that Dr. Fuhrman succinctly explains how to get out of it in Eat for Health. Many, worse-case-scenerio food addicts are now totally free!

Freedom to all!

Craig Paczkowski - April 10, 2010 9:04 PM

shels - For help with food addiction in a group setting where you can be supported by people who understand food addiction you might check out Celebrate Recovery if you happen to be of the Christian faith or are open to it. If not, Overeaters Anonymous, OA, is run just like Alcoholics Anonymous, AA. Dr. Fuhrman's books, Eat to Live and Eat for Health, also speak to the addictive nature of many foods and how changing your diet to a primarily plant based food plan can dramatically reduce food cravings.

You've already completed a courageous step in admitting you struggle with food addiction. There is hope for sure!

Deana Ferreri - April 12, 2010 9:07 AM

Begin by reading Dr. Fuhrman’s Eat For Health, then join the member center at Dr Fuhrman.com for the support you need and to communicate with Dr. Fuhrman.

Chris - May 3, 2010 9:07 PM

Listening to him, I believe that he is sincere about wanting to help people live a happier and healthier life. However, after looking through his website I noticed that none of his suggestions of what types of foods to eat or the examples of recipes given involve meat. In fact, I walked away from here thinking that meats were looked upon as something to avoid all together and that becoming a vegetarian was the path Dr. Fuhrman prefers taking.

I was put off by this. To think that you can not be happy or healthy if you continue to consume meat products seems a bit too extreme. I agree that processed meats should be limited or maybe even avoided all together, however unprocessed beef, pork, chicken or fish should not be eliminated from your diet. Is this why supplements are suggested while on his plans, because you are losing the necessary nutrients that you get from these types of meats?

I was really excited about starting over after hearing Dr. Fuhrman on the radio however, after noticing that all his suggestions and guidelines on this site involve a conversion to a vegan lifestyle, I don’t think I will be starting over with him.

If my assumption are not correct or over stated, please correct me. I was excited for the first time, in a long time would like to involve his ideas of nutrition into my lifestyle, but only if there are suggestions and recipes that involve some meats. Please let me know. brocbrice@yahoo.com.

Deana Ferreri - May 4, 2010 10:51 AM

Your assumption is incorrect - Dr. Fuhrman recommends minimizing animal products, but his plan does not require that you avoid them entirely. There are both vegan and non-vegan recipes in Dr. Fuhrman's books. For more information on Dr. Fuhrman's views on vegetarian diets, please see this article: http://drfuhrman.com/library/article17.aspx

DebbieSLP - July 21, 2010 6:56 AM

I have been eating according to Dr. Fuhrman's recommendations for six years, and I am not a vegan or vegetarian. However, animal products are more a condiment or seasoning in my diet now, and I very rarely eat a chunk of meat as a main dish. I also avoid processed meats. For personal health reasons I don't eat any dairy products.

For my first year Eating to Live, I did the vegan version of the diet, because like Ronnie, I needed a big change to get me off the unhealthy path I was following. I'd never heard the word vegan before and had a sense that it was going to be too touchy-feely granola for me. I decided to do the "radical" vegan diet for a few weeks, and deal with the embarrassment, to get rid of my desire for unhealthy foods. However, I enjoyed that way of eating so much, and it worked so well -- way better than I expected -- that I continued with it for a little over a year. It did not seem extreme at all once I got used to it!

I only returned to eating small amounts of meat because my husband and family were not interested in improving their health through diet, and so I was (and still am) preparing animal-centered meals for them most days. It was just more convenient for me to add some meat into my diet, in order to spend less time preparing separate meals. However I have adhered to Dr. Furhman's guidelines for a diet style that includes minimal, unprocessed animal products.

Truthfully, I was probably a little healthier and happier when I was not eating any animal foods. At least now it will be a small and easy step to return to that diet style should I ever decide to do that.

The only supplement that is really required if you are a long-time vegan is a small amount of B12. Otherwise a whole foods, vegan diet is going to be nutritionally superior to one that is based on meat, because it is going to have substantially more micronutrients per calorie. Years ago when I was on Atkins, I was floored by how many supplements were needed on a mostly animal based diet! About twenty pills a day, plus a laxative if I remember right! Now I just take a multi (Dr. F's Gentle Care), an extra vitamin D, and 1/8 tsp of a liquid EPA-DHA.

It is possible to follow a whole foods, plant based diet as Dr. Fuhrman recommends, even if your spouse, family, and others around you do not. And the rewards are well worth the extra thought and effort.

Salman - January 1, 2011 12:28 AM

I just had bypass surgey on 16/12/2010.and I'm only 32years old.

Dr. Fuhrman's Executive Offices
4 Walter E. Foran Blvd.
Suite 408
Flemington, NJ 08822