DALLAS – Some people just get lucky. Mike Bell may be one of them.
"My boss came to me and said, 'You look a little bad... You need to go to the doctor,'" Bell said.
Mike had an infection in his tooth that he didn't know about. The bacteria spread to his bloodstream and his heart.
"Without prompt intervention, he would have died within a few hours," said Dr. Mark Pool, cardiac surgeon with Texas Health physicians group, who showed us Bell's heart scan. "We can see that the blood moves normally out of the heart, but then goes the wrong direction back into the heart, and that signifies severe leakage of the valve."
An X-ray showed fluid building up in Bell's lungs.
"There's a lot of gray area in the lung where it should not be," Dr. Pool said.
Aside from some shortness of breath and one instance of coughing up blood, Bell didn't realize that the situation was so dire.
"From that point, I don't really remember anything, except I feel a marble in my throat and I heard two people talking," he said.
Doctors had no choice but to operate. Dr. Pool cleaned out the infected area around Bell's heart and replaced his faulty valve.
"I didn't even get to say hello to the man ahead of time," said Dr. Pool, who said the two are now friends.
Bell is recovering well.
"I got to see my son turn 21, I got to have another Christmas with my family," he said, looking at his wife. "I said, 'What do you want for Christmas?' She said, 'I got you,'" he recalled as tears rolled from his eyes.
The gift he got her was an "open heart" angel necklace, because she, too, lived through open heart surgery years ago.
Bell hopes his luck continues through the new year.
"I don't want my kid burying me," he said. "I want to be with my family. I'm fortunate enough to be able to be here."
Bell and his wife plan to spend their 23rd wedding anniversary this April anywhere but the hospital.