He thought it was just indigestion that Sunday morning in late August, but as Kurt Wilke continued to his regular exercise routine, something just didn’t seem right. “I rarely have indigestion which was my first indication something was not normal,” explains Kurt, “Then it seemed to get worse the longer I worked out. It was then I told my wife, Sandy, “I think we should go to the Emergency Room.’” Fortunately for Kurt, a long-time area District Court Judge, he made the right judgment with this call.
Kurt arrived at the Trinity Emergency Room where clinicians quickly did an EKG and ran blood tests, which appeared normal. A CT scan was then performed to ascertain if there were issues with Kurt’s gall bladder which also returned normal. “I was ready to go home believing that I just had a bad case of indigestion, but thankfully Dr. Cookman, an Iowa Heart Center cardiologist, was more suspicious,” reports Kurt, “so he required that I be admitted for observation and to run a few more blood tests.”
After admission, two more blood enzyme tests were performed with both showing that Kurt was having a heart attack. One of Kurt’s small arteries was 100% blocked and his main artery, sometimes referred to as the widow maker, had 70% blockage. Dr. Cookman was able to perform a balloon angioplasty which opened the small artery, but the main artery would require open heart surgery.
“Two of my sons are physicians and they were impressed with the level of care that I received at Trinity,” states Kurt. “They told me that many hospitals would have sent me home after the first couple of tests that proved negative, and my heart attack would have continued to serious heart muscle damage or worse. We are so fortunate to have a medical center like Trinity here in Fort Dodge.”
While the heart attack may have changed Kurt’s work schedule, it was the weeks and months following that changed Kurt’s lifestyle. Within a week of his surgery Kurt would start Trinity’s Cardiac Rehab program. “At first I was really lethargic and it took a while to get back into action,” reflects Kurt. “But as I continued to follow the exercise course in cardiac rehab and make changes to my diet I began to regain my strength and feel very well.”
“My previous diet was horrible,” Kurt confesses, “I was told that the blockages to my arteries were the result of years of unhealthy eating. I travel often in my occupation and it was so easy to stop at fast food places for a quick lunch. The nutritional classes provided by Trinity through Cardiac Rehab were an eye opener. I never realized how excessive sodium, sugar, and carbohydrates can so dramatically damage one’s vascular system.” Today, under the watchful eye of Sandy, Kurt’s meals consist mainly of fruit, vegetables, and lean meat. “One of the things we learned during Kurt’s class is to focus on purchasing healthier food that is located around the edges of the grocery store,” Sandy explains, “I used to casually read food labels, now I read them all the time, especially looking at the sodium content, and it is really shocking how much sodium is contained in prepackaged food items.”
Since his heart attack Kurt has lost in excess of 25 pounds and feels great. He credits the caring staff with Cardiac Rehab for helping him make significant life changes. “These professionals are amazing. They do a great job of encouraging and teaching. I am so impressed with the heart program at Trinity and I feel so lucky that we have such a program in Fort Dodge.” From his experience Kurt advises, “If something doesn’t feel right to you don’t hesitate to get it checked out. I had no chest pain whatsoever, so a heart attack was far from my thoughts.
But I was fortunate because I went in early enough to avoid any heart muscle damage. If I had ignored the persistent indigestion I would have been in serious trouble. I have also learned that it is never too late to make changes in your diet and your lifestyle. Healthier food and exercise are, in my opinion, the keys to healthier living. If you need to change, do it now before a serious life-changing health event forces you to do so.”
Do you know the warning signs of a heart attack? We often think they look like what we see on TV with a man or women clenching their chest, but that is not always the case. Learn more about heart attack signs and symptoms here.