Commissioner to take 3-month leave from office after open-heart surgery Staff will keep Brown informed during recovery

July 12, 1996|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

County Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown said yesterday that he expects to be away from work three months while recuperating from open-heart surgery.

Brown, who turned 52 Wednesday, is scheduled to have a double bypass operation at 9 a.m. Tuesday at St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson. His last day of work will be Monday.

During his convalescence, his secretary will keep him up to date on county business, he said. If the commissioners discuss an issue in a public session, he expects to participate and vote via a teleconference call, he said.

Being an outpatient for three months will not be easy, Brown told reporters yesterday at a news conference at the County Office Building in Westminster.

"I'm having a hard time coping with that in my own head," he said. "I've been driving for years, but never learned to use the brake pedal."

Brown said he would prefer "to be out a couple of weeks and jump right back in. But I think I have a life elsewhere, and I'm going to try to do what the doctors say and not risk it."

When he began having chest pains about a year ago, Brown said he thought he was a "textbook case of angina," a sudden decrease in blood supplied to the heart muscle. He learned last month that he would need heart surgery.

"I became fatigued doing some of the simpler things I used to do -- even mowing the lawn," he said. "I did not have the energy level I had the first six months [in office] when I was attending everything. For the past year, I did not have stamina."

Brown waited a year before going to a physician about his condition, but advised others not to follow his example.

"I urge everybody [to see a doctor] if you even suspect you have a serious condition," he said. "Your life and family are the most important thing."

He said he wanted to wait to have the surgery until after his son entered college in August, but changed his mind when the surgeon asked him, "Would you like to be there when your son comes home from college?"

Brown, whose father died of heart failure in the 1940s, said he feels very fortunate to be living in a time when medicine can deal with heart problems like his in a routine way. St. Joseph's does six operations like his every day, he said.

The commissioner said he has been "extremely touched" by the kindness people have expressed "in supermarkets and on the street." Notes, comments and phone calls, especially from those who have had similar surgery, have been encouraging and reassuring, he said.

Pub Date: 7/12/96

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