Former county commissioner recovering from surgery

Former Jackson County Commissioner Jack Walker returned home Sunday from Rogue Valley Medical Center to recover from a six-way heart bypass surgery.

"He's a really tough guy," his wife, Andrea, said Monday. "He went in thinking he needed a five-way bypass, but he got a six-way bypass."

Walker, 71, suffered a mild heart attack on Sept. 1. An electrocardiogram showed everything was normal in his heart.

"The only way they found the blockages was by performing an angioplasty," his wife said.

She said her husband had been losing steam recently, finding himself out of breath after even mild exercise. They had toured Eastern Oregon the week prior to the heart attack, and Andrea said she had noticed health issues with her husband.

The former commissioner, who served 16 years, received a liver transplant in November 2008 and has suffered from Crohn's disease, which causes a wasting of the intestines and afflicts about 1 million Americans.

"The liver transplant saved his life," she said.

Walker had contemplated stepping down as commissioner prior to the transplant, but his health improved markedly following the surgery.

His wife said his body still seems to accept the new liver, though his cholesterol level has increased since the surgery.

"After the liver transplant, his cholesterol went sky high," she said.

Andrea said she's not sure whether the cholesterol levels increased because of the new liver or because of the medicines her husband is required to take.

In 2005, Walker suffered complications from surgery to remove a 6-inch section of intestine.

After the surgery, he was diagnosed as a diabetic and was placed on a liver transplant waiting list.

Despite the blockages in his heart, the former commissioner generally has a strong heart, his wife said.

Walker's prognosis is good, she said, though it will take him some time to recover.

"He'll be under a doctor's care," she said. "He'll have rehabilitation and therapy."

Damian Mann is a reporter with the Mail Tribune. Reach him at 541-776-4476, or email dmann@mailtribune.com.

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