October 17, 2003

Beauchamp in stride with Oct. 19 Heart Walk event

Featured Image

Dr. Daniel Beauchamp, who underwent open heart surgery just over a year ago, keeps his heart in shape by playing tennis regularly.

Beauchamp in stride with Oct. 19 Heart Walk event

“If something is not normal for your body, it should be an alarm to ask questions. Don’t ignore the symptoms” — Daniel Beauchamp, patient.

Last year, Dr. R. Daniel Beauchamp, John C. Foshee Distinguished Professor of Surgery, chair of the Section of Surgical Sciences, professor of Surgery, Cell and Developmental Biology and Cancer Biology, was in the middle of a surgical procedure when he felt an odd pressure in his chest.

“It was just a little brief pressure that lasted maybe five minutes,” Beauchamp said. “It went away. I didn’t think much more of it. I was scheduled for an echocardiogram to evaluate a benign heart murmur that Friday.

“I called a few days after the event and was rescheduled for a stress echo instead of a resting echo,” he said. “I thought so little of it I didn’t even tell my wife about the stress test.”

Minutes after completing the test, during the resting period, he began having chest pains and pressure that lasted nearly 20 minutes. The cardiologist noticed EKG changes that resulted in a positive stress test and the conclusion that Beauchamp had some form of ischemic heart disease. A cardiac catheterization was ordered.

“I even cajoled the doctors to let me go back to my office,” Beauchamp said. “They had to call me 10 minutes later to go to the cardiac cath lab. A colleague called my wife.”

Beauchamp had already surmised that he would have an angioplasty performed. But it was discovered that there was a lesion on his left main coronary artery that required open-heart surgery.

“It was my understanding that this type of lesion is unpredictable and can lead to sudden death,” Beauchamp said. “I went into surgery immediately.”

Beauchamp, an avid tennis player, didn’t expect such severe heart problems, especially with no family history of cardiovascular disease. But he said one piece of his health history has always lurked in the background. He knew that as a Hodgkin lymphoma survivor, the possibility of heart damage from radiation treatments was possible. He was treated while in medical school. Now, 22 years later, the risks of the life-saving radiation surfaced.

“Even though I was aware of it (heart damage), I kept thinking, it’s just one of those things that won’t happen to me,” Beauchamp said.

Five days after the surgery, Beauchamp was home, only to return two weeks later because of fluid buildup in the lungs and area around the heart. It was suspected that scarring from the radiation therapy did not allow the tissues to absorb fluid. He spent a couple of months in rehabilitation.

More than a year after his open-heart surgery, Beauchamp will be joining thousands of other walkers in the American Heart Walk on Sunday at Vanderbilt. This year he will represent the American Heart Association as a Red Cap walker during the annual fundraising event.

The walk is the premier national walking and fundraising event that benefits the American Heart Association. In more than 1,000 cities across the country, thousands of participants walk to help raise money to fight heart disease and stroke as well as provide funding for public and professional education and community service programs. Last year, teams from Vanderbilt raised more funds than any other health care company in America and became the first company in the Southeast to break the $100,000 fund-raising mark.

Much of the money raised supports heart disease and stroke research being done by VUMC investigators. The top prize for anyone raising more than $1,000 is a four-day, three-night cruise for two.

As Beauchamp chats about walking with friends and family — his wife Shannon and 11-year-old daughter Bryn, he reflects back on the past year.

“It was a rough fall, but everything has settled down now,” he said. “It’s so important to get these types of problems taken care of when you first notice a change.

“I’ve never felt better. It was a painful experience to go through for several weeks, but I feel perfectly normal now. I have to thank Dr. Richard Hock, my internist, Drs. Keith Churchwell and David Zhao from Cardiology and Dr. Davis Drinkwater, my cardiac surgeon. I also want to thank all of the nurses, therapists and others who participated in my recovery.

“This can affect anybody,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do.”