Eight years ago, on Easter, Jerry Wick was watching the Masters Tournament on television when he turned to his wife, Debbie, and said, “Something’s not right.” A day later, he had quadruple coronary bypass surgery at Froedtert Menomonee Falls Hospital, part of the Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin health network.
“The place is amazing,” he said. “I felt so secure and taken care of. There’s no way I would have wanted to be anywhere else.”
Last year, Jerry, then 68, found himself getting winded easily. “I’m in OK shape, but I’m not a bodybuilder or a marathon runner, I’m just an ordinary guy,” he said. Although he didn’t have chest pain, Jerry took a proactive approach and met with his doctor, Sarah Thordsen, MD, cardiologist and MCW faculty member.
“His symptom — shortness of breath upon exertion but no pain — was atypical of someone in their 60s who’s had bypass surgery,” Dr. Thordsen said. “And it gave me enough suspicion to act.”
Dr. Thordsen scheduled Jerry for a stress test, which came back abnormal and raised concerns of an arterial blockage. She then ordered a diagnostic catheterization, which revealed that one of his bypass grafts had narrowed severely.
“Bypass grafts have a lifespan and deteriorate over time,” Dr. Thordsen said. “Unfortunately, that’s what happened to Jerry.”
She referred him to Jesse Martin, MD, interventional cardiologist at the cardiac catheterization lab at Froedtert Menomonee Falls Hospital. Aided by advanced imaging technology, Dr. Martin guided a thin catheter up through the femoral artery to place a stent in the weakened bypass site.
“He did great with the procedure and went home the next day,” Dr. Martin said. But nine months later, Jerry found he had to rest and take a break while mowing the lawn.
“I chalked it up to getting old because otherwise, I felt really good,” he said. After conferring with Dr. Thordsen again, Jerry returned to the cardiac catheterization lab, where Dr. Martin repeated the procedure.
“The bypass graft I had previously put a stent into was now closed off completely,” Dr. Martin said. “Fortunately, his native artery that the graft was going through was still open, and I was able to put in a stent and open up the native blood vessel itself as opposed to working on the graft.”
“I am back to normal,” Jerry said. “The team at Froedtert Menomonee Falls Hospital did a wonderful job.”
Cardiac Rehabilitation Is Essential to Recovery
Key to Jerry’s recovery and continued well-being was the time he spent doing cardiac rehabilitation at Froedtert & MCW North Hills Health Center.
“The nurses and therapists there are amazing; they are incredibly helpful and positive,” Jerry said. “They know when to push and when to back off a little bit.”
“Rehab is essential,” Dr. Martin said. “There’s excellent data that shows it improves outcomes and patients’ lives. Moreover, I’ve never had a patient come back and have anything but good things to say about it. They universally love cardiac rehab. The rehabilitation team does a fantastic job.”
“The nurses and staff of the cardiac rehab program act as our eyes and ears, so if the patient is having symptoms, they let us know,” Dr. Thordsen said.
In addition to guiding participants through an appropriate exercise regimen and educating them about the importance of a proper diet, the rehab program helps patients process the stress that comes with dealing with their condition.
“The program provides a sense of community for heart patients, and the camaraderie can help people adjust to what has happened to them,” Dr. Thordsen said.
An easy-going guy with a ready sense of humor, Jerry maintained his good spirits throughout his medical journey. In addition to his heart procedures, he was treated for prostate cancer at Froedtert Hospital.
“After all the excellent care I received, I really wanted to give back,” said Jerry, who became a board member of the Froedtert Menomonee Falls Hospital Foundation in 2018. In 2019, he chaired the annual Wheeling and Heeling for Cancer fundraiser.
“In addition to the care I’ve received, I’ve had friends who have had cancer and have needed the hospital’s services,” Jerry said. “I am happy to help raise funds. It doesn’t even feel like work to me.”
Always enthusiastic, Jerry led “Team Wick Rocks,” a group of family members and friends who participated in the event’s walk.
“My family has been wonderfully cared for at Froedtert Menomonee Falls Hospital,” he said. “It means the world to me.”
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