Knoebels helps 50-year heart surgery survivor get back into shape
ELYSBURG - As Knoebels Amusement Resort wraps up its season in the coming weeks, one park employee is already looking forward to 2014.
At first glance, Thomas Doyle seems like your typical seasonal worker. Employed at the inside kitchen of the Alamo Restaurant, he works about 18 hours a week operating a broiler that cooks an assortment of food for guests of the sit-down restaurant. He assists fellow workers when he can, and his supervisor and manager have praised his hard work.
But Doyle's story is special. The 62-year-old Mount Carmel man is amazed he's still alive. That's because he has just one lung and survived open heart surgery at age 12 to repair a half-dollar-size hole in his heart.
His right lung was removed at 3 months after it collapsed because of an enlarged heart. At age 12, the hole in his heart was repaired with a Teflon patch, a procedure that, in 1963, was relatively new to the medical field.
"Waiting for the development of a patch was the hardest thing," Doyle recalled in a recent interview. "They told me if I did not have the operation, I would not make it past age 18."
Doyle said the only long-lasting health impact is often being short of breath. Having survived with one lung for almost 50 years since open-heart surgery, Doyle looked to control recent health issues.
"This past spring I was concerned about my health deteriorating somewhat because of gained weight and having Type 2 diabetes," he said. "I was 200 pounds on a 5-foot 6-inch frame, and became quite concerned."
Doyle took it upon himself to adjust his lifestyle. Among the steps was getting a job at Knoebels.
Having a work history as a chef, including graduating from a two-year program at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco and kitchen jobs from 1970 until his retirement in 1997, Doyle said it was "impulse" to apply for a job at the Alamo.
He was interviewed and offered a job by Alamo manager Chuck Cesari. Doyle accepted and began work May 3.
"Cesari went further in his kindness by informing my supervisor (Alberta Sebastian) and the cook staff to keep an eye on me and to make sure I did not lift heavy loads," Doyle said. "When they saw me huffing and puffing and sweating on a few occasions, they actually made me sit down."
20 pounds lighter
Doyle said he has lost 20 pounds and has kept his sugar levels in check. Staying active by working at Knoebels, he said, is what led to the healthier lifestyle.
"I owe Mr. Cesari, Sebastian and the rest of the kitchen staff, as well as the Knoebel family, a heartfelt thanks and gratitude for their help, kindness and consideration toward me," Doyle said. "I want to also thank my wife, Anita, of 11 years, and my friends from Camptown who watched over me as I was growing up."