Syracuse man felt no signs of aneurysm, needed open heart surgery

Bob Burns is a friendly face around St. Joseph's Hospital in Syracuse where he volunteers a few days a week.

One of his assignments is to help out families whose loved ones are having heart surgery

"I'll also actually go in and speak to patients that had open heart surgery yesterday or the day before and even though they still have wires connected to them, I can say I know exactly how you feel," says Burns.

Burns has always been active and energetic, but when he was 52, his doctor sent him to a cardiologist and he was diagnosed with aortic stenosis â?? a condition where the aortic valve does not fully open.

Burns would need surgery down the road. Seven years later, as surgery was approaching, he had no symptoms, but the doctor found that an aneurysm had grown.

"He said you are going to have to have a pacemaker put in today. I said what about my open heart surgery next week? He said that's not a problem, but you need a pacemaker put in today," says Burns.

Six days later, he had open heart surgery.

"Obviously having open heart surgery, the first day or two after surgery, you feel for the first time that, oh my god, I'm really vulnerable," says Burns.

But there was also hope, and that's something Burns shares with the people for whom he volunteers.

He started to recover slowly, and within three weeks of surgery, he was walking six miles a day.

"I'm now able to actually run a 5k race in less than 29 minutes, which is something I was never able to do prior to my surgery," says Burns.

Burns is now 62, retired, and enjoys spending time with his wife and kids, and of course, volunteering.

Burns has an important message; that everyone should see a doctor regularly.

"If I was one of the people who said I'm too healthy, I don't have to go to a doctor, I would not be living today," says Burns.

In April, Burns will be honored as the inspirational honoree for this year's American Heart Walk at Onondaga Community College.

He says it's important for people to stay active regardless of their age. It's how he's living his life.