He is 70 years old and stands at nearly 5'3", but his name seems fitting for such a dynamic human being. Tall Chief, a Native American and member of the Osage nation, leads an adventurous life. For 27 years he drag raced professionally all over the country while maintaining a "real" job in the laser industry in northern California. On the side, he has always enjoyed hang gliding and pretty much anything that offered a slight sense of danger and excitement.
"I'm not afraid of anything," he exclaims.
But, 13 years ago, Tall Chief experienced some odd symptoms while hang gliding one day that sent him to El Camino Hospital and cardiologist, Dr. Brandon Wong.
"I felt this lump in my throat and almost a feeling of indigestion," he remembers. "I finished up my hang gliding for the day, took my hang glider apart and decided it was best to head toward home and swing by my favorite hospital, El Camino Hospital, on the way."
Tall Chief has been a patient at El Camino Hospital for 46 years. "I just like it there because it's clean, professional and everyone is treated equal," he likes to tell people.
When Tall Chief was admitted, Dr. Wong immediately opened him up, placed a camera inside his heart and showed Tall Chief where there was a blockage. Tall Chief had been having a heart attack most of that day, but Dr. Wong was able to help him by placing a stent in the blocked artery.
Fast forward to this year when Tall Chief began experiencing the same lump in his throat that sent him to the hospital so many years previous. He decided to visit Dr. Wong again, who put him through a routine stress test to monitor his heart. The stress test resulted in Tall Chief undergoing surgery the next day for a triple bypass performed by cardiac surgeon Dr. Tomomi Oka.
Within a week after surgery, Tall Chief was once again pushing his limits by walking around the hospital halls and impressing his medical team with his remarkable recovery. He is particularly grateful to his team of doctors and nurses who have helped him regain his strength and health.
"I would recommend El Camino Hospital to anybody," he says.
The next few months required 36 cardio rehab visits to help Tall Chief make the transition back to hang gliding and running with his wife three times a week. He is almost ready to be back among the clouds.