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Avera Medical Minute: Man climbs mountains after heart attack

 Jeff Kretchman recovered from a heart attack and hiked to the peak of Mt. Princeton
Jeff Kretchman recovered from a heart attack and hiked to the peak of Mt. Princeton (KSFY)
Published: May. 23, 2020 at 11:15 AM CDT
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Just seconds before Jeff Kretchman's heart attack, his wife heard an odd nock at the back door. She thought it strange as the back yard was fenced and visitors usually came to the front.

As she opened the back door to see who had knocked, no one was there, but she saw jeff back by the alley and called out to him.

"Did you knock on the back door, and I said, no, I didn't. Hurry up. We're gonna be late," said Kretchman.

The couple now thinks that knock, with no one in sight, was divine intervention.

"And then she turned around to go back inside and she heard this thud. And that thud was me," said Kretchman.

Jeff had collapsed while going into cardiac arrest, his wife called 911. While first responders tried a heart defibrillator four times to resuscitate Jeff, the family was praying.

"Suddenly, I just gasped. And I started breathing and my heart started beating," said Kretchman.

Jeff had heart surgery, then cardiac rehab. He set a lofty goal for a year after his heart attack.

"I want to be, hiking to camp near, on Mt. Rainier," said Kretchman.

The team at Avera St. Lukes in Aberdeen helped him plan the steps to achieve his goal. Cardiologist Susheel Gundewar tracked his progress.

"Apart from exercise which is very supervised and monitored, we also offer them nutrition advice and lifestyle changes that that allow them to get healthy," said Dr. Genewar.

Jeff grew stronger every day.

"As well as his hard work and dedication in those three months that he was with us when he really pushed himself hard to get to that physical shape to be able to do that feat. So, it was remarkable," said Dr. Genewar.

At the foot of Mt. Rainier, there was too much snow and too many clouds for a hike. Just before leaving...A bittersweet moment.

"The clouds had just opened up. It was just amazing. It was like God opened up the clouds, so I could see that mountain," said Kretchman.

But new opportunities developed for jeff while visiting his son in Colorado.

"So Ben said hey do you want to climb mount Princeton. And I was so excited to do it," said Kretchman.

The change in lifestyle made it all possible.

"And a patient is able to overcome that and, you know, eliminate bad habits and create good habits. That's very very gratifying," said Dr. Genewar.

If you're driving around Aberdeen, you may just pass Jeff on his bike, keeping fit, even in the cold of winter.

Jeff: "And there's so many people, I would just love to thank you know, thank you, for being a part of saving my life," said Kretchman.

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