Picture someone at risk for a heart attack, and Mike Lacey is decidedly
not it. The 61-year-old owner of the Comedy and Magic Club in Hermosa
Beach has never smoked. He doesn’t have high blood pressure or high
cholesterol and his weight has been the same since college.
So when he started feeling chest pain, he didn’t think too much of
it. The pain was minor—it mostly occurred after activities, like
pushing his grandkids in their stroller or while resting after a jog on
the beach. But his wife, a Nurse Practitioner and Marriage and Family
Therapist at Torrance Memorial Medical Center, urged him to have it checked out.
Lacey’s primary care physician, Dr. William Kim, performed a
stress test, where a patient walks or runs on a treadmill while their heart is monitored.
“I passed the stress test with flying colors,” recalls Lacey.
But Dr. Kim noticed that his color was off and referred Lacey to
Dr. Mark Lurie for a stress echocardiogram (EKG), which showed a slight abnormality.
The following day, Lacey went back to Torrance Memorial for a
coronary angiogram, an imaging procedure that allows a physician to view the arteries of
It was only then that they realized the extent of the problem.
“I had over 90 percent blockage of the arteries feeding the left
part of my heart,” says Lacey. “I found out that I needed
a double bypass and was admitted right away.”
Lacey met with
Dr. John Stoneburner, a Torrance surgeon that specializes in cardiothoracic and vascular surgery.
Despite the abrupt transition from apparent health to emergency surgery,
the calmness of the doctors and nurses helped put him at ease.
“Once I got to the hospital, I was on autopilot, they took care of
everything. My nurse, Keith, was amazing. He made me feel so relaxed and
put both my wife and me at ease, ” says Lacey.
Still, it was hard not to reflect on the gravity of the situation. His
upcoming year was an important one. His comedy club would be celebrating its 35
th anniversary. He would be turning 60, the same age his mom was when she
died. “My wife, daughter, and grandkids—I saw that clear as
a bell when going into the O.R.,” says Lacey.
Although a double bypass is a major surgery, Lacey was feeling back to
normal shortly after surgery. “I was surprised at how quick recovery
was. It’s shocking to me that there was so little in the way of
pain; I took pain meds for about one day. Recovery was so good.”
When he returned to work, Lacey remembered that “every comic on the
planet called me,” wanting to know what happened and how it could’ve
happened to someone who seemed so healthy.
“I couldn’t see it coming. Everybody was shocked. My suggestion
is to really make sure you have no issues as I was really one of the last
people they would’ve looked at,” says Lacey.
“If someone is not attending to an issue or they are worried about
the procedures, I would say that it’s nothing less than shocking—there
was so little in the way of pain. I think they really have it down.”
Although some patients are forced to make drastic lifestyle changes after
heart surgery, Lacey had been living as if he were at risk for heart disease
since he was young. He cut out beef and pork when he was 23 and has avoided
most dairy products since his 30s. He maintains a healthy weight and has
tried to slow down his busy work schedule.
The expediency of the hospital and its physicians made a lasting impression
on Lacey, who started the Comedy and Magic Club when he was in his twenties
and built it up from a small club to a regular Sunday stop for Jay Leno.
“They caught it before a heart attack. If it wasn’t for hospital
and doctors and their quick reaction, I probably wouldn’t have seen
60 and wouldn’t have seen the 35-year anniversary of the club.”
A long-standing member of his community, Lacey finds it particularly important
to support non-profit institutions like Torrance Memorial that provide
an invaluable service for its residents.
“We should all be so lucky to have a hospital down the street from
us, because you never know when you need them. A non-profit community
hospital is the backbone of the community. I have a lot to be thankful
for and am honored to be a part of that hospital.”