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True Patient Story

I needed open-heart surgery... immediately!

Henry’s Story

As a boy, I considered my family to be typical. Later; however, I was faced with both parents having open-heart surgery. They were able to recover and continue on with a good life, and I always said that I wouldn’t hesitate to do the same if necessary.

At the age of 60, I was feeling very healthy - I was watching my diet due to high cholesterol and high blood pressure, and exercising fairly well. Boy, was I surprised when ‘necessary’ came sooner than expected.

Early one morning in late January ‘06, I was taking the garbage out for the weekly pickup, when all of a sudden; I was very short of breath. I thought, “Is it that cold out this morning? Did I breath in some of that cold air?” I just stood there for a moment or two, and it seemed to go away. So, I went on to work as usual. Didn’t think much of it. A week later, a similar experience occurred when I was shoveling a little fresh snow off the driveway before I left for work - that same shortness of breath. However, this time, it lasted a couple of minutes. I began thinking about the possibility of having a heart attack. It eventually went away; I continued on.

But this time, I kept thinking about it. I decided to call my wife. She called and scheduled an appointment for me that Friday at Memorial Health Center. After lab work, chest x-rays, an EKG, and checking me over very thoroughly, Dr. Michael Haase suggested a heart catheterization. It was scheduled for the following Tuesday at the Aspirus Heart & Vascular Institute (formerly the Wausau Heart Institute.) I simply thought I would have some more tests, possibly some stents...

The doctors informed me that afternoon that I needed to have open-heart surgery, immediately! 

Everything went very well during my quadruple bypass the next day. I also learned then that I was a candidate for a “fast track” recovery program due to my age, my overall good health, and the fact that I didn’t have a heart attack.

To prepare me for the early discharge, the nurses had me walking the halls. On Thursday, as I was wheeled to the exit door, my nurse made the comment that she had never discharged a patient home from the ICU unit before. I was thrilled to hear that. I was riding home with my family approximately 24 hours after having open-heart surgery! (This is still hard for me to comprehend – going home 24 hours after having my chest cut open.)

Going home was not the end of my success story; it was the beginning. I was given orders to begin a lengthy cardiac rehabilitation program of approximately 12 weeks at Memorial Health Center in Medford. My cardiac rehabilitation program helped me gain the strength and achieve the full recovery that I sought. I was able to set up my workout times in conjunction with my full-time job. Even though my doctors had suggested that I not return to work for eight weeks, I was gaining strength and confidence at a fairly rapid pace. Three weeks from my surgery, I was working half-days; I was easily working full-time at the six-week mark.

What was really positive for me was the opportunity to have this kind of rehabilitation program right at my fingertips. I could adjust my work schedule along with the cardiopulmonary rehabilitation schedule, and vice versa. The staff at Memorial Health Center were very professional, showed much concern for my rehabilitation program, helped me set high goals, and were very personable, showing genuine concern for all their patients.

If anyone were to ask me about my experiences and how I feel, I wouldn’t hesitate at all to respond with accolades for everyone that worked with me in this procedure. I would encourage anyone faced with the possibility of heart surgery to move forward quickly. The procedures are always changing with new and improved methods. Success rates are very high.

I was blessed to have doctors and staff at both medical facilities, Aspirus Heart & Vascular Institute and Memorial Health Center, who were of the highest level professionally and also very caring people. From my local doctor encouraging me to go for the catheterization to see what was possibly wrong, to the surgeons who repaired my heart, to the cardiopulmonary rehab staff who helped me on the road to recovery - To you all, a very strong heartfelt thanks for all that you did for me, and for others like me.  

- Henry Clark

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