Mission Hills : Taking the Pulse of a Healthier Life


There are good days and bad days, 72-year-old Ernest Estrada admits.

On good days, he jogs and walks as far as three miles in his Van Nuys neighborhood. On bad days, he tires easily and has to rest.

Still, it’s all precious time. Estrada underwent quadruple bypass surgery and a valve replacement last year after a heart attack forced him into Holy Cross Medical Center. Doctors speculated that a lifetime of exercise may have actually saved his damaged heart, he said.

“It gives you another outlook on life,” he said of his 20 months of recovery. “You’ve been given another chance to live.”


Tonight, Estrada will return to the Mission Hills hospital for a local meeting of Mended Hearts, a national support group for people who have had heart surgery. Since November, more than two dozen heart disease patients and their families have gathered in a trailer on the hospital grounds to talk, to listen--and to learn.

At this week’s meeting, Leo Stoller, a cardiologist and a heart disease patient himself, will visit the group to share his experiences on both sides of the surgeon’s knife.

“It’s very comforting to hear people speak about how they felt before and after the operation,” Estrada said.

Orville Capps, a 79-year-old Mission Hills resident who underwent a double bypass last year, agrees. He said personal contact with fellow patients is Mended Hearts’ greatest asset.

“You have an open line to more information,” he said.

Despite their heart troubles, both men say they are healthier now than before their surgeries. To boost the spirits of patients in similar straits, the pair often visit hospitals to spread the gospel of life after bypass surgery.

“I say, ‘You have to listen to your body,’ ” Estrada said. “ ‘If you don’t feel right, call the doctor.’ ”


Mended Hearts will meet at 7 p.m. in Trailer No. 4 behind the Emergency Department. The hospital is at 15031 Rinaldi St. in Mission Hills.