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Heart-shaped potato proves to be life-saving omen

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Wednesday May 30, 2012 Tom Mitchell photo | Leader Times
Ed Taladay of Manor Township holds a heart-shaped potato that was meant for Sunday dinner, He believes the potato was a harbinger of a heart problem that necessitated triple by-pass surgery and later installation of a pace maker.Taladay's wife, Hope, holds a commemorative cushion from Allegheney General Hospital.
Monday, June 4, 2012, 1:28 a.m.

MANOR -- Ed Taladay never imagined that a lowly potato would be a harbinger of things to come.

A little more than a month ago, Taladay and his wife, Hope, went for Sunday dinner in their son's home. Taladay's daughter-in-law, Renee, opened a bag of potatoes and pulled out a potato that was shaped like a heart. No one there imagined that the unusual shape of the potato could be an omen.

During the dinner, Taladay said, he had a dull pain in his left shoulder. He said that the day before he had been using lopping shears to prune bushes and grapevines.

"I attributed the pain to my work the day before and basically ignored it, thinking it would go away," he said. "Otherwise, I felt fine and we had an enjoyable dinner."

The next day Taladay noticed that he felt tired, and the dull ache turned into a sharp pain. The pain became so intense that acting on his doctor's advice he went to ACMH Hospital.

"By then the pain was getting worse and going all around my chest and into my back," he said.

After an initial exam at ACMH, Taladay was transported to Allegheny General Hospital. There, he met Dr. Stephen Bailey, director of cardiac surgery. Bailey informed him of the seriousness of his situation and recommended immediate surgery. Taladay had what is known as the "widow maker," a serious blockage of the heart vessels. The Allegheny General medical team also discovered that Taladay's blood sugar was seriously elevated, coming in at 290.

It was determined that his heart vessels were blocked by at least 80 percent, so Taladay had triple bypass surgery.

"Not many people survive the widow maker," he said. "I'm lucky and thankful to be alive."

In less than a week, Taladay returned home to recuperate. During that time, he received more than 100 get-well cards from friends, family members and co-workers.

However, Taladay learned that there was yet more to his survival story to come. On his 68th birthday, May 17, Taladay returned to Allegheny General to receive a unique "birthday gift" -- a pacemaker.

"The folks at Allegheny General were simply wonderful," he said. "And Dr. Bailey, who in my opinion is a brilliant surgeon, saved my life. But I also have to thank the Good Man above, too. My family has been quite supportive and understanding. I'm so thankful for everything and thankful to be alive.

"If anyone ever has unusual pain in the chest or arm, don't ignore it. We joked about the heart-shaped potato, but as it turned out, it really was an omen, but perhaps a good one."

Taladay hopes to return to work at the Community Action Agency and hopes to resume serving as a member of the board of directors at the Mechling Shakley Veterans Center. He said his recovery is slow, but he's making good progress. He and his wife are looking forward to more Sunday dinners with their son and daughter-in-law.

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