Avera Medical Minute Father’s Day Feature: Dads recovering from STEMI

Published: Jun. 20, 2022 at 10:38 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Jim Nelson and Larry Burkhardt consider themselves part of a pretty unique club of sorts.

His daughter and my daughter both dance on the same dance team,” said Jim. “It’s tremendous how dance brings dads together,” joked Larry.

The proud dance dads also have something else linking them.

“So, they said it was a widow maker,” said Larry.

He was the first to suffer a heart attack, in June of last year. This past May, it happened to Jim. “It surprised me because Jim is one of those guys that you would never think of having a heart attack,” said Larry.

Their stories are fairly similar.

“I got in there and felt a little tightness in the chest,” said Jim. “Not anything that I haven’t felt before, like heartburn almost. I wasn’t sure, but it just felt not quite right.”

Larry was at work when his heart attack happened.

“I came in here, didn’t feel anything until I turned the corner at the service department and I started feeling dizzy,” he said.

Neither thought much of their initial symptoms. Luckily, both of them had help nearby.

I just thought it was the heat because it was hot that day,” said Larry. “The ambulance showed up, they said, ‘Why don’t you just come in the ambulance and let us hook you up to the machine?”

Jim and his wife had driven to the heart hospital while he was experiencing symptoms.

“We pull in, I told them that I had some chest pains,” he said.

“And as soon as I got in there, the team got me in there and hooked me up to the machines and were checking it out and they brought in the doctor and said, ‘Wow, looks like you’re having a heart attack.” Both of the dads had stents placed and they are now living healthier lives, fortunate to be able to do so.

The dance dad thing was awesome because we get to hang out during events and stuff,” said Jim. “And now we have something else to talk about, and every year now we have an anniversary of an extra year of life.”

Dr. Thomas Waterbury, a Cardiologist with the North Central Heart Institute says both men suffered what is called an ST-elevation myocardial infarction, or “STEMI” heart attack.

It is one of the more dangerous types of heart attack, where the coronary artery is mostly or completely blocked. He says what happened to Jim and Larry is quite common.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women worldwide but men tend to develop coronary heart disease at a younger age and are more likely to have a heart attack particularly earlier in life,” he said.

Dr. Waterbury says they both did the right thing in seeking out medical help when they sensed something wasn’t right.

For more information on heart health and the signs and symptoms of a heart attack, visit Avera.org/MedicalMinute.

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