Butler suffers health scare

Council member recovering from quadruple bypass heart surgery

When doctors asked Cortez City Council member Tom Butler if he had a fear of flying, he realized might be in trouble.

The prognosis from those Durango doctors on the condition of his heart was not good.

Butler was airlifted to an Albuquerque hospital for open quadruple bypass heart surgery on Nov. 23, and when he arrived at the hospital the surgeon who did the procedure introduced himself. Butler naturally asked when the surgery was going to take place. He was told immediately.

Two days before, Butler had enjoyed the typical day of Thanksgiving. Family, friends and food - it was a good holiday. He had no idea his heart was in such poor condition.

The day after Thanksgiving, Butler, expereinced pain in his throat. He went to the doctor and was set to take a stress test.

Before taking the test, Butler informed the doctor that he was experiencing chest pains. That ended any possible stress test. The doctor immediately told him chest pains needed to be addressed, so he was taken to the emergency room for additional tests.

That's why Butler was asked if he had a fear of flying.

"When they told me I was going to be flown to Albuquerque, I knew it was serious," he said.

The council member had been experiencing shortness of breath for about two weeks before contacting his doctor, but he never thought that he had a serious heart problem.

"It was a total shock to me," he said.

The surgery was a quadruple bypass with one artery being 99 percent clogged, two were 98 percent blocked and the fourth one was 97 percent blocked.

Butler was in the hospital for 14 days, but not all of those days were due to his heart.

His left leg, which they pulled the vein from to repair his heart, became infected.

Butler is now back home ready for another holiday with family.

"The good news is there is no permanent damage to my heart," he said. "In six more weeks I will be better."

Currently, Butler is not allowed to drive. He is walking periodically in his house, which he called the best exercise for his condition.

While he cannot lift or do any physical activity, Butler said he feels so much better now than before the surgery.

Butler plans on attending the Jan. 8 council meeting and mentioned he has kept in touch with City manager Shane Hale quite a bit while in and out of the hospital on issues facing the city and council.

"I am looking forward to getting back," he said.

Butler was re-elected to the council in April 2012.

michaelm@cortezjournal.com