Paul Lockman is like many retirees. His daily schedule is busier now than when he worked full-time. The 70-year-old retired attorney keeps a torrid pace, traveling the world speaking and coordinating mission work. In his spare time, the Dallas resident spends time with his wife and three grown children as well as in his garden. His busy life precluded Lockman from seeing his primary care physician (PCP) on a regular basis. But, when his wife began her new career nine years ago, she urged him to start having annual physical checkups.
"In 2016, I saw my PCP and as a part of my physical, he listened to my carotid arteries," Lockman explains. "He didn't like what he heard and ordered an ultrasound that same day. The next day he called me with the news that my carotid artery was blocked. He referred me to Baylor Jack and Jane Hamilton Heart & Vascular Hospital. The vascular surgeon ordered a CT scan with contrast that confirmed the blockage. I was shocked because I experienced no symptoms. We discussed next steps and agreed that because of my age and busy travel schedule, I needed to have a carotid endarterectomy to clear the blockage."
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, individuals have two common carotid arteries, one on each side of the neck. They each divide into internal and external carotid arteries. Internal carotid arteries supply oxygen-rich blood to the brain. External carotid arteries supply oxygen-rich blood to the face, scalp, and neck.
Carotid artery disease occurs when plaque builds up on the walls of the carotid arteries and narrows or blocks the flow of blood to the brain. If the brain doesn't receive adequate blood or if plaque breaks loose, a stroke can occur and brain cells begin to die. This impairs the parts of the body that the brain cells control. Lasting brain damage, long-term disability, such as impaired speech, vision or paralysis, or even death, can result. Carotid artery disease may not cause signs or symptoms until the arteries are severely narrowed or blocked. That means, for some people, a stroke is the first sign of the disease.
Carotid endarterectomy is surgery that removes plaque buildup from inside the carotid artery. An incision is made in the side of the neck to expose the blocked or narrowed portion of the carotid artery. An incision is made in this part of the artery to allow the surgeon access to remove the plaque. After the plaque has been removed, the surgeon closes the incisions in the artery and the neck.
"When my surgeon accessed my carotid arteries, he discovered that the left one was 90 percent blocked and the right one also had blockage," Lockman says. "He cleared the blockage from both arteries. When the procedure was over, he came to the surgery waiting room and showed my wife the blockage he removed. I was very thankful that nothing had happened during one of my trips to a third world country."
Lockman says that Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas has been the preferred hospital for him and his wife for many years. Both their children were born there. He credits the hospital and physicians for saving his and his wife's lives. "The entire staff at Baylor Hamilton Heart & Vascular Hospital cared for me and my wife as individuals. They kept us informed and my wife especially appreciated being told what was going on and what to expect," says Lockman.
After his procedure, Lockman was on blood thinner and blood pressure medicine for a short period of time. He is now off these medications and feeling great. "I've started walking and I'm determined to increase my aerobic exercise," explains Lockman. "I am also watching what I eat and taking better care of myself."
Lockman is about to resume his fast-paced travel schedule, doing what he loves best, mission work and speaking to audiences around the globe. Future travel plans include India, Greece, Turkey, Hungary and maybe Egypt and Ukraine. "I really began my service to others when I turned 32 years old," says Lockman. "I was brought up to believe in serving others. My interest in mission work started when I was in grade school. Every year our church had a mission Sunday where a missionary and his family would tell about their experiences and show slides from far away places.. I also had cousins who lived in various parts of the world because their father was part of the World Health Organization. So, my initial interest grew into a passion and I've been involved in foreign medical missions, seminars for pedagogical college students on helping their students develop good character and evangelical efforts ever since. Thanks to Baylor Hamilton Heart and Vascular Hospital, I'm alive and able to continue my mission work."
"Carotid endarterectomy (CCEA) is one of the more common procedures performed by vascular surgeons. It has the potential of having a positive impact on a patient's life by greatly reducing the risk of a stroke. Surprisingly, the operation does not cause a lot of post-op pain in most patients and is well-tolerated by most patients. The day following the procedure, a patient is typically back to full activity in one to two weeks. Symptoms related to carotid artery disease are dizziness, fainting spells, blindness, slurred speech, and weakness or poor control of the extremities. These symptoms should prompt urgent evaluation by a physician," says Jay Vasquez, MD, Medical Director of Surgical Services at Baylor Jack and Jane Hamilton Heart and Vascular Hospital.