Steve Smith’s story is one all too familiar for many men. He was active, worked outside, felt healthy, and hadn’t been to a doctor in more than 20 years. Then one day, he “got to feeling kind of funky,” so he drove himself to the hospital. “I didn’t think I had anything wrong. I was just a little short of breath. I thought it was a fact of getting older,” he said. Physician assistant Ron Schafer was working that day. “He’s friends with my son. He sat with me while another doctor examined me,” Steve recalled. Before long, Steve was on a helicopter to Mercy Hospital in Des Moines, and although he didn’t know it, he was in really bad shape. “I had to have five heart bypasses, my kidneys were failing, and my blood sugar was through the roof. I had a heart attack and a stroke while I was on the operating table. They had to shock me back to life three times.”
The medical staff at the hospital called in his family members to prepare them. “They thought I was going to die,” he said. The team of doctors and nurses miraculously pulled him through. The cardiac team in Des Moines had told Steve that his left ventricle was only working at 24% when they discharged him. If he didn’t get it up to 35%, he would require a defibrillator. When he got back to Mt. Ayr, he told Jennifer England, his cardiac rehab therapist, that this was her task – to get him up to 35%. A couple of weeks after starting rehab, he had an echo-cardiogram and he was already at 46%. According to Steve, Jennifer did a “fantastic job.” He was really pleased that he didn’t have to travel for his 36 rehab sessions. “I was doing an hour a day, three days a week. I said to Jennifer, I feel like I lose ground if I don’t do it every day. So, she said, ‘come in every day!’ It was a really good thing to do and a good thing for me to get used to. It’s what I need to do for the rest of my life.”
Steve’s a Type 2 diabetic now, so he’s keeping an eye on his blood sugar. “I have to pay attention. I watch what I eat and check my blood sugar regularly. Exercise helps diabetes too. “I’m doing a lot of walking and I do some of the exercises we did in the hospital. I have to keep moving – even if I would rather take a nap in my recliner!” He walks around the square in Mt. Ayr once a day. If the weather is bad, he walks in the hospital.
Steve hadn’t spent a lot of time at the hospital before, but now he’s not scared of the doctors anymore. At 71 years old with a new lease on life, Steve has some advice for middle-aged men everywhere. “Get a physical every year. Know your numbers.” He adds, “For what I’ve been through, what more could they do to me?”
Call the Mt. Ayr Medical Clinic 641-464-4470 to schedule your annual physical.