In the years following law school West Chester native Joseph Carroll was able to dedicate the following thirty-six years to police work throughout Chester County, including 10 years as the District Attorney. In 2011, about a month before his retirement, the late Mr. Carroll had a short stay at The Chester County Hospital. In a 2012 interview for Synapse Magazine, Mr. Carroll reveals the effects of this life-changing experience.
This is Ash Wednesday — the first day of the holy season of Lent — a period of reflection and remembering that life on Earth is limited. It’s also a beautiful day. The barren trees remind us that of February, however, the breeze is reminiscent of spring. In spite of the mild winter of 2011 and 2012, This day will be an unexpectedly warm day.
One year ago, Joe Carroll would have been in the office at 11:15 am and not have noticed a wonderful day that was unfolding. His job as District Attorney was a full-time job and he had very little time for other things. He is now enjoying his time at home with the time left to conduct an interview.
Joe is used to being interviewed about crimes and the investigation that they are involved in, however, the current case will be more private. The potential victim is Joe himself and the perpetrator has a heart attack for him in the wings. The perpetrator was disarmed on in December 7th, 2011, through a procedure for cardiac catheterization in The Chester County Hospital. Joe was lucky and he’s aware of that. He’s happy to tell his tale, which starts with a brief historical background -as well as a prop.
“I came across an aid in sight,” he says, as he grabs small bronze plaques that are on the windowsill in front of the table where he sits at the dining table.
“Now since I’m retired I search every cupboard,” He explains. He uncovers items that are long forgotten, things to keep, while others throw away. The plaque is kept. It’s from the Philadelphia Marathon he ran in 1978. The race was referred to by the name of Provident Bank Philadelphia Marathon. He finished 46th overall in the race.
“Forty-sixth isn’t exactly a great sounding number,” he admits. But, 46 from 15,000+ runners isn’t something to be laughed at. The story continues.
“I’ve always loved running” he declares.
It’s clear that running is a major aspect of Joe’s daily life. And, sports have been a source of motivation and energy. He’s been obsessed with fitness since the age of. Even the requirements of his position as a chief police officer of the county didn’t stop his workout routine.
“I’ve always been a fan of playing sports,” says Joe. “I ran during high school, college, and later after. In addition, I was a big player in basketball and was a skilled swimmer,” he says. Their love for athletics stayed following law school, but his work at the office of the District Attorney and at the home where the couple had twins to raise and a baby, left him with less time for activities.
“The most straightforward way to keep was to run,” he says. “You do not need to gather the whole group to get together. Just take off your footwear, go out of the door and head out.”
Joe continued to run through his life and has also competed in races, which included another marathon in 2004. He prefers half marathons to 26.2-milers He estimates that he’s participated in more than 150 half marathons, but not in recent years. Due to a variety of reasons, his running was a bit slower from 2008 until the beginning of 2011. In the latter part of the summer of 2011, he made the decision to return to running.
“I began to run a bit harder and more frequently,” says Joe, “but I began to feel intense chest pain. It would begin to appear rapidly, in the first mile or it would be a bit later.” The pain made him take a break and walk for a bit before picking up his pace once more. He blamed it on being in poor shape. “I decided, OK I’m at 62. It’s normal to get getting older.”
In the following months, the doctor continued his treatment but the pain continued to linger. “My speed was increasing,” he says, “but the pain was appearing early and I was scared.”
Around the time he began running tragically, tragedy struck during the race in the 2011 Philadelphia Marathon. Two people — one aged 21 and the other 40were killed while running two of them from heart attacks. It was an alarm for Joe. He remembers thinking “If I was younger, I’d go through the pain. It’s what I used to do. However, that’s probably not a good decision now.” He decided to get it examined.
On the 6th of December Joe went to see his family doctor, Brandt Loev, DO who was at West Chester Family Practice. Since Joe had been a competitive athlete for most of his life his doctor Dr. Loev immediately recognized Joe’s symptoms as a sign of change for him. Dr. Loev was able to arrange for Joe to make an appointment during the day with an interventional cardiologist Joseph Lewis, MD, who is a partner of Chester County Cardiology Associates.
“Dr. Lewis happens to also be a runner,” says Joe, “so we instantly met up.” While analyzing Joe’s health issues and symptoms, the doctor. Lewis delved into specifics regarding his running. What were his top times? What were his best times currently? What did he feel like while running? What were his current symptoms? How do they compare with the pain he used to feel in his younger years?
Being aware of the particular situation Joe found himself in — that he was suffering from an increase in chest pain when he ran, but it was still possible to run. the doctor. Lewis was concerned that Joe could “pass” the cardiac stress test due to his athleticism. Dr. Lewis advised against performing the test, but instead, an invasive cardiac catheterization later that morning. He was concerned that there was something wrong with Joe’s heart and needed to be examined earlier and not later. Joe was in agreement.
During the rest of the visit during the remainder of the appointment, Doctor. Lewis reviewed the procedure with Joe. He advised that he should prefer to insert the catheter into an artery inside Joe’s wrist instead of through an artery located in his groin because this would result in less bleeding and quicker recovery. He also reviewed the issues that could be present in Joe’s heart, and the alternatives he could choose to use in the treatment of them.
Joe recalls Dr. Lewis saying it was possible that he would not find any issue and he believed there was a chance that he might.
Doctor. Lewis’ suspicion was confirmed by Dr. Lewis. The next day Dr. Lewis discovered two blocked arteries in Joe’s heart. One was completely blocked, as well as the remaining 90% blocked, according to Joe remembers. The doctor. Lewis was able to unblock the arteries, and then place a stent inside each of them to guarantee continued blood flow to Joe’s coronary. The whole procedure took less than two hours.
“Both arteries were very tolerant to repair using stents,” Dr. Lewis. “We treated the first by putting it through the wrist, and it was successful. Then we were able to move on to the second.” A resonant echocardiogram to check for signs of damage on the heart’s muscle revealed that there was no evidence of damage.
The procedure is routine at the Hospital where cardiac catheterization results in interventions to improve coronary blood flow Joe was admitted to The Chester County Hospital and returned home the following day. The monitoring of any complications post-intervention or bleeding issues is crucial regardless of the fact that these are extremely rare events.
“The wrist wound healed quickly and I didn’t experience any negative effects,” says Joe. What he did notice, however, was a drastic change. It was like the heart’s odometer was reset.
“Within an hour following surgery, I felt as if I was more energetic than I’ve experienced in a long time,” he says. “I was also aware of the uncomfortable I was experiencing in my chest in a relaxed state. Then, it went away.”
Their resting heart rate of his decreased to levels that were several decades ago. (He admits that as an avid fitness enthusiast, he’s obsessed with keeping track of his heart rate.) “I know the pulse I should have typically, and it’s around the 40s,” says Joe. “But it was increasing and was getting to 80 or so before I went to see Dr. Lewis.” Following the procedure, his resting heart rate increased to 45.
Once his body was cleared to exercise, Joe went out and did a little running. He felt amazing, like 10 years had already been removed off of his body. “It’s incredible,” he remarks. “It’s incredible to feel energized again and the ability to accomplish things physically that I could not do a few years ago.”
Since the problem started slowly, and he was unsure what to expect from age, Joe thought it was normal and that it was just getting harder to run when time passed by. “I did not realize I had a problem that I wasn’t simply growing more aging,” he says.
Joe was not thinking about heart disease, despite having a long family background of it. “I believed that my exercise helped me a bit but it could be,” he says. “It helped me realize that I had a problem prior to when I suffered an attack of the heart. Perhaps that’s the reason I bounced back in a matter of hours. In the end, the muscle in the chest was the healthy condition. It was the blockages that were causing the issues.”
The remarkable increase in Joe’s energy and endurance could not come at a better moment. Seven weeks into retirement, he’s just started the next chapter in his life.
What’s the next thing on his agenda at the present moment?
Absolutely not on the sofa. Joe admits to being wired to serve in the public sector and a habit that his parents heavily influenced. Joe says “My parents have always taught me the notion that you don’t determine your success by dollars. It’s measured by what you’ve done to help others.”
Right now, Joe is focusing on his family, volunteer work as well as a few personal projects. Joe is on the Board of Directors of Chester County’s Crime Victims Center of Chester County as well as the United Way of Chester County two organizations doing crucial work that he would like to help.
Joe states that, in addition to doing regular exercise, he’s taking cholesterol medication and attempting to alter his diet. Joe jokes that he has a habit of eating too much pizza, but he’ll soon know what his progress is. “I was tested for blood that came back positive, and I’m continuing to visit Dr. Lewis to get the results,” he says.
And what was the outcome? An impressive improvement, according to Joe. Joe reports the fact that the “bad” cholesterol decreased by 175 to 98, and the “good” cholesterol shot up by 35 percent to reach 50.
He’s now exercising almost every day and does not have any limits to his activities, with no chest pain, and no breath shortness. Of course, he keeps the pulse rate and running time. Resting pulse rates are exactly where they should be while running speeds are improving.
One final point The doctor states that while it was enjoyable to have a short introduction to retirement but he’s now working at his Chester County office of a Philadelphia law firm. Joe states that the decision to return to work this soon is directly a result of the satisfaction he feels after completing the heart surgery.
He states, “I have much more energy and feel even more alert in my mind. This time, I’m feeling more energetic and feel energized and have more energy and I’m excited about it.”