Real Stories. Real People.

Jim Doran Mitchell Roberts
Caryl Miller Maggie Van Fossen

Jim Doran

It's really no surprise that Jim Doran was at work when his heart attack hit nine years ago. At the time, he worked 75 hours a week and 48 Saturdays a year.

He also smoked three packs a day and didn't fit exercise into his busy schedule, despite a family history of heart disease.

"I was doing a lot of things wrong at the time," he admits. "I ate a lot of restaurant food; smoked heavily; worked a lot of hours; and didn't get enough rest or exercise. I was 52, a manager in the insurance business, and had not been exercising since I was in school."

In fact the day before his heart attack, a stab of guilt about not exercising prompted the 6-foot, 7-inch Doran to lift weights for the first time in more than a decade.

"So when I started having pain in my back the morning of my heart attack, I blamed it on sore muscles," he says. "I wasn't feeling well, but I hadn't missed a day of work in 15 years. I was sitting at my desk and felt as thought I was having back spasms. I felt sweaty and queasy. If a co-worker hadn't insisted on taking me to the hospital, I probably wouldn't have gone."

A trip to the Genesis East Emergency Department led him to the Cardiac Catheterization Lab, and then a week later, to open-heart surgery for quadruple bypass. It would be the beginning of a dramatic lifestyle change for Doran.

"A lot of times, it takes a crisis to lead to a change of behavior," he says. "I had tried to quit smoking hundreds of times, but having that tube down my throat had made me never want another cigarette again. I had been a three-pack-a-day smoker for at least 25 years."

He also immediately enrolled in Cardiac Rehabilitation at the Genesis Heart Institute. Only 10-20 percent of the 2 million patients a year who experience a heart attack or undergo procedures for coronary artery disease participate in cardiac rehabilitation, says the American Heart Association.

Doran says cardiac rehabilitation keeps him compliant with his exercise. He has progressed to the Genesis Cardiac Rehabilitation, Phase IV program at the Bettendorf Family YMCA, where he exercises three times a week. Genesis Medical Center, Davenport, is the only hospital in the region to have four phases of Cardiac rehabilitation.

"If I wasn't in cardiac rehab, I'd be back to my old ways," he says. "I wouldn't be smoking, but I probably wouldn't be exercising either. Now, I fit cardiac rehab into my day. It's scheduled, and everyone knows I need that time. It has to be something pretty important for me to miss it."

Doran knows that a patient's battle with heart disease is far from over after bypass surgery. To stay healthy, it takes a lifetime of adjustments ranging from smoking cessation and cardiac rehabilitation to healthy eating and the right medication.

Today at 61, he has participated in eight Quad City Times Bix 7 races. It's quite a contrast to his life a decade ago when he rarely exercised at all.

Caryl Miller

Forget that heart attacks of Hollywood. Caryl Miller is living proof that a heart attack doesn't always begin with crushing chest pain and end with a dramatic collapse onto the floor.

"Everyone thinks of the big chest pain, with pain radiating down the arm," Miller, 56, says. "The morning of my heart attack, I felt like I was merely getting a terrible chest cold. I wasn't in pain. I just thought, 'Oh man, I've got a big one coming on.'"

When she got up to refill her coffee cup, she became dizzy. The dizziness progressed, so she called for her husband, Scott, to help. "I got real dizzy and incoherent, and the room spun," she says. "That's basically all I remember until the ambulance got there."

Miller was in the midst of a heart attack. She was rushed to Genesis Medical Center, Davenport, where experts outperform national standards for rapid treatment of heart attack. At Genesis, cardiologist Jon Robken, M.D., implanted three stents to prop open the blocked arteries in the right side of Miller's heart.

With the help of a heart attack alert system, at Genesis, arteries are consistently unblocked below the national standard of 90 minutes.

"I coded twice that day and received several shocks with the paddles to jumpstart my heart," Miller says. "I was in the ICU for four days. When the nurses came to see me in my hospital room, the called me a Christmas miracle and said, 'We can't believe we're talking to you. This is why we became nurses.' A month later, I got two more stents."

More than five months after her Dec. 2005 heart attack, Miller walked in the Quad Cities Heart Walk. Her family joined her - a daughter and her fiance from Omaha and a son, daugheter-in-law and two grandsons from Glen Carbon, Il. In fact, she says she postponed a procedure to implant another stent, so she wouldn't miss the walk.

"Until I had my heart attack, I had no idea I had heart disease," Miller says. "I'd just been to my family doctor for a check-up, and my blood pressure and cholesterol were fine. A week-and-a-half later, I'm being rushed to the hospital with a 100 percent blockage on the right side."

She wants to spread the word that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women. "There has to be a reason why I survived after going through all that, and I'll find out sooner or later," she says. "If it's to raise awareness of heart disease, then that will be plenty."

Mitchell Roberts

When 12-year old Mitchell Roberts was diagnosed with high cholesterol, he managed to accomplish what many adults have tried but failed to do. He dramatically changed his diet. He became more active. He embarked on a healthier lifestyle-and most importantly - stuck to it.

A year later, a graph documenting Mitchell's reduced body mass index does his pediatric cardiologist proud.

Mitchell's body mass index has decreased from 35.9 to 26. His weight has dropped from 166 to 130 pounds. His pants size has fallen from an adult size 38 to an adolescent size 16. Not only has he lowered his risk for heart disease, he has gained skills he intends to practice for a lifetime.

"My cholesterol and body mass index are much better now," says Mitchell, 13, of LeClaire. "I can play soccer because I have more energy and am not out of breath. I can go on a 3-4 mile bike ride with my friends - something I couldn't do when I was heavier. I'm thinner. Some of my teachers didn't even recognize me when I came back to school after summer vacation."

Mitchell's efforts to curb his weight and control his cholesterol have become a family effort. He lives with his grandparents, Walter and Lee Anna Roberts of LeClaire, who began their weight loss efforts several months before Mitchell more than a year ago. His 16-year old sister, Breanna also has been introduced to healthier eating habits.

"Mitchell stuck with his diet even when we fell off the wagon," Mrs. Roberts says. "When we blew it over the holidays, Mitchell kept his motivation. We're really proud of him and tell him we wish we could do as well as he has done."

No longer does the family of four routinely sit down to a plate of 2-3 pounds of bacon or have gravy with every potato. "Mitchell still eats about anything he wants but weighs what he eats and limits his portions," Mrs. Roberts says. "The other night he wanted French fries with his dinner, but he only ate half of what was on his plate and got up and walked away."

A newly motivated Mitchell doesn't plan to go back to the former weight that made him feel self-conscious; experience backaches; and forced him to quit playing baseball because his knees hurt.

"Once you accomplish something - like going from an extra-large shirt down to a small shirt - you get more motivation," Mitchell says. "Sure, it's hard sometimes. I have temptations, especially when I see other kids with candy bars, chips, regular pop - stuff I know I shouldn't eat. But once you get going, it gets easier after a while. It feels good to be thinner and to have the energy to do the things other kids do."

Maggie Van Fossen

Maggie Van Fossen of Davenport would grab the pink bottle of Pepto Bismol whenever the uncomfortable ache came to her chest. She thought the problem was indigestion.

She found out differently Feb. 25, 2007 when the pressure in her chest increased. Instead of experiencing acid reflux, she was having a heart attack. She had climbed the 14 steps to her office at home. Brushing off the nagging feeling in her chest, she turned on the computer; discovered she finally had Internet service again; and, ran down the stairs to tell her husband the good news.

"By the time I hit the bottom of the stairs, the pressure had increased in my chest," she says. "I said to my husband, 'Guess what? We have Internet service again, and I think I might be having a heart attack.'"

On her way to the hospital, she experienced tingling down both arms and felt like an elephant was sitting on her chest. She was rushed to the Cardiac Catheterization Lab at Genesis Medical Center, Davenport, where an artery that was 99 percent blocked was cleared and then propped open with two stents.

Several months before her heart attack, Van Fossen had gone to the Emergency Room, worried about the on-and-off again ache in her chest. After an EKG and blood work, she was told she wasn't having a heart attack; the problem was likely acid reflux.
 
"I had the family history," explains Van Fossen, 62. "My mother had a stroke and recovered. She later died of a massive heart attack while she was fighting lung cancer. Nevertheless, I had let myself become overweight and I wasn't exercising."

A year after her heart attack, she is active in Phase 4 Genesis Cardiac Rehabilitation at the Bettendorf Family YMCA; has lost more than 30 pounds; and, is faithful about eating right and accomplishing 6-7 hours of exercise each week. "It's a blessing in disguise, because it helped me turn my lifestyle around," Van Fossen says.

She recommends participating in cardiac rehabilitation and having the reassurance of medically supervised exercise. "After my heart attack, I went into a stage of sadness and regret that I hadn't taken better care of myself. I worried that every pain I felt was another heart attack. Cardiac Rehab at Genesis was absolutely the best therapy I could have had. The nurses and exercise therapists would push me to try to reach the next level, but I always felt safe."

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