Ricky Skaggs says he is feeling “150% better” after undergoing quadruple bypass heart surgery in Nashville in June.
The Country Music Hall of Famer tells People that he knew something was wrong for more than six months preceding the routine medical checkup that led to his surgery. He’d felt a tightness in his chest and shortness of breath in the months prior to his diagnosis, but even so, he admits, when his doctors advised that he undergo an angiogram after a six-month health checkup yielded concerning results, he nearly decided to put it off for a week since he and his wife, Sharon White, were slated to visit their son, Luke, and his wife Rosemary as they got ready for the birth of their son.
“Scripture tells us God always knows the thoughts of man,” the 66-year-old entertainer tells People. “That was proven to me at that moment, because while I did not speak it from my mouth, I thought about putting the angiogram off for a week. When I thought that thought, it was like I saw the Lord with a jeweler’s eye glass on. He was peering at me but never said a word. But just by His look, I knew He was saying, ‘Absolutely no.’ It put the fear of God in me. He had given me so many grace situations, but He was serious that I needed to take care of this now.”
Skaggs ended up having surgery just four days later at Centennial Medical Center in Nashville, and he spent four more days in the hospital, surrounded by his wife and their daughters, Molly and Mandy, before returning home. In retrospect, he realizes that his forced time at home in 2020 due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic turned out to be a good thing.
“I have thanked the Lord hundreds of times that I wasn’t out in the middle of Texas on a tour bus, miles away from a hospital,” Skaggs states. “It was a major blessing I didn’t have a heart attack. Nothing was hurt, and nothing was destroyed or irreparable. It was just by the mercy and grace of God that all of this happened in this way.”
Skaggs says that God was trying to give him subtle warnings about his health for the entire first half of 2020 leading up to his surgery. He kept receiving Life Line Screening letters in his mailbox, his friend Amy Grant underwent surgery to address a congenital heart condition and his sister-in-law, Cheryl White Jones, suffered a mini-stroke on the same day he had his six-month checkup.
“I knew that I couldn’t stand in the shadows of my heart situation anymore,” the 15-time Grammy Award-winning country musician says. “I had been fearful of a heart attack or getting a stent put in all of this time, but now, I was in a corner. I had to address it.”
Skaggs was staggered by a conversation he had with his surgeon, Dr. Sreekumar “Kumar” Subramanian, after his surgery on June 15.
“He told me that when he was finished with the bypasses, he literally was holding my heart in his hand, and my heart literally leapt in his hands when the blood started flowing through it again,” the country legend relates tearfully. “I just started bawling. It was the most incredible thing I have ever heard in my life.”
He adds that the surgery has given him a new lease on life. He can walk without getting winded now, and he’s been working to strengthen his heart. Skaggs returned to the stage of the Grand Ole Opry in September, just days before welcoming his new grandson, Lyric.
“Don’t put off tomorrow what you can do today,” Skaggs reflects. “That surgery gave me a brand-new heart. Not only a real heart, but a spiritual heart that has now been cleaned out, so I can hear Him better than ever before.”