Published on February 08, 2011

He's Running with Heart

Davenport man rebounds after bypass surgery at Genesis

At age 55, he feels like a teen-ager. His running intensity equals what it was in high school. He has lost 20 pounds, eats a lean diet, and, aspires to run the full Boston Marathon in 2012. It’s hard to believe that just over a year ago; Dave Craddick of Davenport was in a Genesis Operating Room undergoing open-heart surgery. Genesis heart surgeon Nicholas Augelli, M.D., performed a five-vessel coronary artery bypass surgery “off-pump,” while the heart was still beating and without the use of a heart-lung machine.

Nine months later, Dr. Augelli was among 43 Genesis caregivers who signed Craddick’s running shirt before the heart patient ran the Quad City Times Bix 7.  It was Craddick’s third race since his heart surgery, having made his comeback at the Genesis Firecracker Run last July 4. He felt better than he had in years. The signatures on his back gave him emotional support. With the help of his Genesis Heart Institute caregivers, he had rebounded from major heart surgery. They would continue to be in his heart as he raced. “To the thousands of participants at the Bix starting line, I was just another runner standing in the rain, waiting for the gun to sound and ready to go one-on-one with the challenging 7-mile course,” Craddick recalls. “Little did they know that with my signed shirt, I had a clear motivational advantage over each one of them: I was running with an entire team of medical professionals. Because of my recovery, I was able to experience running the race with my daughter, son and nephew, who had returned from two tours of duty in Iraq. The memory will be with me forever.”

Warning signs

It was while training for the Bix 7 in 2009 that Craddick first realized something was wrong. He appeared to be in great physical shape. He was 54 years old, 6 feet tall weighing less than 190 pounds, and running 4 miles a day. “My legs felt like bricks, however. I had no muscle energy. I didn’t feel like I had any lung capacity,” he says. “That wasn’t normal for me. I’d start slow and try to do more every day. My distance wasn’t progressing like it had in the past.” Lung disease was first suspected. A stress test and EKG turned up inconclusive. He took over-the counter medication for acid reflux, which helped. His total cholesterol level was within normal range, but his good “HDL” cholesterol was very low. Finally, an angiogram uncovered he had five blocked arteries.

“I was relieved...after five months of not knowing what was wrong, I finally had an answer,” he says. Running led to his diagnosis and it had kept his body in better shape to rebound from heart surgery. “Running saved my life, and now it’s an even bigger part of my life,” he says. After heart surgery, he had three months of Cardiac Rehabilitation at the Genesis Heart Institute. He checks in regularly with his Genesis Heart Institute cardiologist Nicolas Shammas, M.D., and his surgeon, Dr. Augelli.

“The doctors always respond to any question I ask, and my care at Genesis has been top-notch,” Craddick says.” The nurses at the hospital, Cardiac Rehab and CV Med see so many patients every day, but they always have treated me like an individual.” Today, Craddick takes medication for his cholesterol; eats a lean diet; and is more serious about exercise than ever. He ran a half marathon in the Quad Cities last September. He ran the Des Moines Half Marathon last October with his son on the one-year anniversary of his heart surgery; another half marathon in Scottsdale, Ariz. last December; and on Feb. 20, he hopes to achieve Master’s All-American status at the Livestrong Half Marathon in Austin, Tex.

“After that, I have two more half marathons scheduled,” he says. “I plan on running a full marathon-- the Marine Marathon -- in Washington, D.C. in October. My goal is to qualify for the Boston Marathon in 2012.”

He concludes, “My advice to people is ‘Listen to your body...It’s trying to tell you something. If you don’t make lifestyle changes, heart disease is going to win.’ Today, my quality of life is 100 percent better because of the adjustments I made.” The Genesis heart surgery program has received the highest ranking from The Society of Thoracic Surgeons. Genesis Medical Center, Davenport has been named one the nation’s Top 50 Cardiovascular Hospitals for 2011 by Thomson Reuters.

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