From Avid Runner to Heart Attack Survivor
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From Avid Runner to Heart Attack Survivor

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Bill Dodd participated in Finley's cardiac rehabilitation program.

For Bill Dodd, running has been a big part of his life for many years. Running in a variety of events from local 5Ks to ultramarathons, Bill has been putting in the miles. 

In 2019, Bill was running in the “Run of the Ages” event in Manchester, Tennessee, in which participants run for as many hours as they are old. At mile 47, he tripped and broke his right wrist. At this point, Bill made the decision, with some encouragement his wife, Sue, and his brother, Ed, to stop his race and go to the Emergency Room at the local hospital. Bill decided on a temporary cast and intended to return to the race to finish. 

After running 102 miles in nearly 68 hours, Bill returned home to Dubuque and UnityPoint Health – Finley Hospital to undergo surgery for his broken wrist. After a successful surgery, Bill suffered a heart attack due to a blood clot and was moved to Finley’s catherization lab. 

In the cath lab, Bill was met by Dr. Timothy Martin of UnityPoint Clinic – Cardiology, who performed an angioplasty to relieve Bill of his heart attack symptoms and put in a stent. 

“They put the catheter in, and I didn’t feel it going up,” Bill said. “However, I was able to feel the pressure going away. It was like air being let out of a balloon.”

While Bill’s route to the cath lab wasn’t a typical one, as most patients enter from the emergency department or have a scheduled appointment, he was impressed with how nurses and his medical providers handled the unexpected. 

“I tell you what, these people were just incredible,” Bill said. “They got me right up to the cath lab.”

With what started as a routine surgery for a broken wrist turned into a cardiac procedure that placed Bill in the hospital for a total of four days, including a night in Finley’s Intensive Care Unit. 

Throughout his experience in a variety of different Finley departments, Bill was continually impressed with the care he received throughout his stay.

“It was fantastic,” Bill stated. “There’s not one negative comment I can make. They did their job, and they were right on the spot within a matter of minutes. I know they also took care of my wife, making sure she had what she needed. They just took great care of me.”

Knowing he wanted to get back to running, Bill, with the guidance of Dr. Martin, chose to utilize Finley’s cardiac rehabilitation program. 

The cardiac rehabilitation program is an individualized and personal treatment plan that includes evaluation and instruction on physical activity, nutrition, stress management and other health-related areas. 

“My main goal was to get back to running,” Bill said. “I thought that since I had the heart attack, common sense would say to have people watch me as I slowly started to recover, instead of just returning to running on my own. It just seemed practical to participate in the program.” 

Between September 9 and December 9, 2019, Bill attended nearly 36 rehab sessions. Throughout those sessions, Bill did various exercises, including walking on the treadmill and using an elliptical. 

One part of his cardiac rehab sessions that Bill seemed to enjoy most was working with the nurses in Finley’s cardiac and pulmonary rehab department.

“The progress I made from the start of my rehab to the end was with their help,” Bill explained. “It’s an individual program, but the nurses realized where I was coming from with my running. With their assistance, they were there to push me a little bit more each session and to walk on the treadmill, eventually with an incline, and to use the elliptical. The rehab was reinforcing and encouraging. They watched and monitored everything too, which was reassuring and comforting.”

During his time in cardiac rehab, Bill was thankful for the classes that he was provided with, as he learned more about salt and sugar intake, monitoring cholesterol and other healthy habits. 

“The last two years or so, I was less rigid about what I should have been eating and doing,” Bill said. “They got me back on track again, which was probably the best thing for me. The classes helped to reinforce what I already knew that I sort of let slip away, but they brought me back to what I should to be doing.”

From the classes to workouts, Bill was grateful for the positive experience he had during his time in Finley’s cardiac rehabilitation program. 

However, he believes that his success would not be made possible without the help of the staff at Finley Hospital, particularly those within the rehab team.

“The nurses there were great,” Bill said. “They were always encouraging, which is important. They watched out for me, as well as all of their patients when I was here. They would sit down and talk with their patients each day. It was good to see that, because it wasn’t just about the patients’ health, it was also about the patients’ lives.”

As he reflects back on his experience, Bill has high remarks for the program, not just with what it can do for patients, but because it changed his life. 

“Not knowing what other places are like, I could definitely tab this as No. 1,” Bill said. “Just with the steps that you go through to rehab yourself back to normalcy – this is an awesome place. I think I’ve mentioned to people already how my surgery was, how quickly the medical team acted and how everyone took care of me. They were awesome.”

With his life back on track, Bill continues to have high aspirations about getting back to running, including more ultramarathons and going back to Manchester, Tennessee, for the 2021 Race of the Ages event – where this journey started. 

“Within a year, I hope to get back to ultramarathoning,” Bill said. “In 2020, I’m just going to steadily run an average of four miles or so each day. I want to get back to where I can be at 50 to 60 miles per week.”

To learn more about cardiac rehabilitation, visit unitypoint.org/heart

Bill Dodd poses in Finley's Cardiac & Pulmonary Rehab gym.