Farmer doesn’t let heart attack slow him down

If you would have told Doug Erickson he would have a heart attack the day after his 68th birthday, he would have told you “no way.”

The Flanagan, Illinois, farmer comes from a history of good genes. His mother is a thriving 98-year-old and his father lived to be 95. With no heart conditions in the family, Doug never thought he would fall victim to a heart attack.

On January 2, 2017, Doug was working in his heated workshop on his corn and soybean farm when he started feeling pressure in his chest.

“I had never experienced pressure like that before,” Doug recalls.

Doug walked back to his house, told his wife, Anne, took an aspirin and laid down to see if the pressure would get better.

“Anne asked me, ‘Well what do you think we should do?’” Doug said. “I wasn’t feeling any better, so I told her we should probably go to the hospital.”

Upon arrival to the emergency department (ER) at OSF HealthCare Saint James – John W. Albrecht Medical Center in Pontiac, Doug was immediately taken back where the medical staff performed a series of tests. The ER doctor confirmed that Doug had suffered a heart attack.

From Doug’s test results, it was determined that he needed advanced cardiology care services available at OSF HealthCare St. Joseph Medical Center in Bloomington, named one of the nation’s 50 Top Cardiovascular Hospitals by Truven Health Analytics. Doug was immediately transferred by ambulance.

Blocked arteries

The cardiovascular team at OSF St. Joseph performed an evaluation on Doug. The results? Doug had one artery with 90 percent blockage, another with 70 percent blockage and a third with 40 percent blockage.

“They believed that a piece of plaque had gotten stuck in the 90 percent blocked artery, which cut off blood supply to my heart in that artery, causing a heart attack,” Doug said.

The 90 percent and 70 percent blocked arteries required an angioplasty procedure and stent replacement. The medical team said the 40 percent blocked artery could be cleared with proper diet, exercise and medication treatment.

Angioplasty is a procedure that widens narrowed arteries by inserting a deflated balloon into the narrowed artery by a catheter. Then, the balloon is inflated, widening the narrowed artery. Once the artery is widened, a small wire mesh tube (stent) is inserted to form a rigid support and hold the artery open.

It’s all in the wrist

Doug was scheduled for surgery the next day with interventional cardiologist, Dr. Murali Senapathi.

Most catheter-based procedures like angioplasty and stenting are done through the femoral artery in the groin. But Dr. Senapathi is also trained to go through a patient’s transradial artery in the wrist, if a patient is a suitable candidate. The benefits of going through the wrist include a shorter hospital stay, quicker recovery time and increased patient comfort.

Doug met the requirements of going through the wrist and was prepped for surgery.

Two hours after a successful procedure, Doug was walking around and went home the next day.

“The care I received was outstanding,” Doug recalls. “Everyone from the nurses to the doctors kept me totally informed of the next steps. Sarah Belcher was my nurse the majority of the time I was at OSF St. Joseph. My wife and I really bonded with her, and she made us feel comfortable.”

Lifestyle changes

Doug was referred to the Cardiac Rehab Program at OSF Saint James, which he started a few weeks after surgery. The program consisted of 36, one-hour sessions under the guidance of exercise physiologists Evan DuPrey and Matthew Janus.

“Evan and Matthew helped me create an exercise plan that was tailored for my condition,” Doug said. “By the end of the program, I had increased my workout time from 50 minutes to 80 minutes. I feel great at how far I’ve come.”

Doug has also changed his diet, replacing sugary foods for more fruits and vegetables.

Since completing the rehab program, Doug has lost 30 pounds and continues to follow a healthy lifestyle with his wife.

“I owe most of my success to my wife, who has helped me every step of the way,” Doug said.

Today, Doug continues tending to his 1,900-acre farm and spending time with his three children and 10 grandchildren with a healthy heart.