Listen to your body. Listen to your doctor.
Listen to your body. Listen to your doctor. There is life after quadruple bypass surgery, a great life.
Heartburn was Bill Schluete’s only warning sign. A real estate broker by day, Bill’s true calling is as a pianist; he plays 30 to 35 performances every month. On this particular day, he was playing a family reunion at the Hermitage Hotel. Just before his performance start, he ate a quick and delicious dinner.
“Two hours later, I was feeling the burn,” he said, “and again at 4:30 a.m. and then again, after my morning shower. This was unusual for me, but I just thought I ate dinner too fast.”
Mentioning the problem to his wife, she insisted he drive straight to the Emergency Department at Saint Thomas West.
Doctors ordered an angiogram. The test results revealed three serious blockages, maybe a fourth one. Bill was going to be staying for a while for open-heart surgery.
“I was 62 years old and extremely healthy,” Bill said. “I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. I had all kinds of plans, appointments and performances I had to call and cancel that day. I do all my own yard work. I backpack, hike and camp as an assistant Scoutmaster in the Boy Scouts. I never get sick. And yet here I was. I was going to be in the hospital for at least a week or more facing four bypasses. Who knew how long my recovery would take?”
Bill had the quadruple bypass a few days later. Eager to get back to his busy life, he listened as cardiologist Dr. Evans Kemp told him people who take part in cardiac rehabilitation have a 20 percent better chance of survival than those who don’t. And, the doctor said, many heart patients end up feeling depressed, unless they set specific goals and work hard to reach those goals.
That guidance fit Bill to a T. He had booked a trip with his son and grandson to go on a 100-mile hike later that same year in at the Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico. He decided making that trip was his goal.
Bill moved through Phase I and II at cardiac rehab fairly smoothly and quickly. And then he graduated to Phase III, arriving three days a week between 7 and 8 a.m. to work out with weights, machines, cardio, stretching and cool down. Every day, he thought about carrying that 50-pound backpack through the New Mexico terrain.
“I pushed myself hard because I had a goal in mind,” he said. Within months, Bill was in the “best shape of my entire life. I decided to keep on, and today, nearly five years later, I am still going to cardiac rehab.”
And Bill led that hike. And another in 2011 and again in 2013. Bill has plans for a fourth in 2015.
“I am better than I was before. I am going to keep on working and performing because I enjoy my life,” he said.
Bill has been married to his wife, Joan, for 41 years and they have two grown children and six grandchildren. Bill also teaches real estate courses and writes real estate curriculum.
“This experience is a gift from God,” Bill said. “I am unlimited in the things I can do. I still pick a goal and stick to it. I go beyond what I think I can do. I push myself, for my own physical and mental well-being.”
Bill sees Dr. Kemp annually. He listens to his body. He gets regular checkups. He is thankful for his wife’s counsel that day.
“That day, I sensed something was really wrong, but I didn’t want to admit it to myself,” he said. “Today, I listen much better.”