In his mid-60s, he weighed 350 pounds and at one point needed to spend 17 days in the hospital after being diagnosed with lymphedema, a condition in which excess fluid causes swelling.
“I literally peed about 50 pounds of water out,” Mike says. “They stabilized the fluid. They’re obsessed with measuring your urine output. You’d think they have better things to do.”
All kidding aside, Mike also had a narrowed heart valve, which he was going to have to have fixed.
“In January of 2019, when I went down the hall from Methodist Hospital to the rehab center, I couldn’t walk 50 feet,” he says. His heart surgery was scheduled for March of 2019.
The Park Nicollet Structural Heart Team recommended that Mike undergo a newer procedure called TAVR, which stands for transcatheter aortic valve replacement. It’s a minimally invasive procedure that allows for a much quicker recovery than open heart surgery. (Mike had had a double bypass in 2004.)
“Given Mike’s history, our multidisciplinary heart team determined that TAVR was really the only appropriate option for him,” says Jessica Wageman, a cardiology physician assistant who is Park Nicollet’s Structural Heart Coordinator. “His chances of complications or death were high if we had to do a more invasive operation.”
More than 11 million Americans have heart valve disease, with some 25,000 people dying of it every year.
The day of the procedure, Mike’s biggest worry was adjusting his schedule.
“The most difficult part was going there at 4:30 in the morning,” he says. “Once I got checked in, they said we’re gonna do this, next thing I was in ICU, then I was running on all cylinders again. It was a snap. Easy peasy. We’re dealing with some very, very talented people there.”
Mike has continued losing weight while trying to eat a heart-healthy diet and exercising pretty much every day at the Methodist rehab center. Since losing those first 50 pounds, he’s dropped another 40, putting him at 262 pounds. He’d like to get down to around 210.
“I get encouraged every day,” he says. “I’m doing things I’d never thought I’d do. I’ve joined a yoga class and we’ll get into these different positions and I’ll wake up and feel like I was hit by a bus. But that’s a good thing. It’s been strangely rewarding.”
He says he owes it all to the folks who gave him a new heart valve and then guided him through his recovery, with the cardiac and pulmonary rehab therapists in particular making a huge impact through their encouragement and expertise.
“I’m just so much better – I can’t even believe how much better I am,” he says. “Everyone in the entire cardiac department is so dedicated. They all just embody everything that today’s practicing medicine should be. If I had the wherewithal, I’d throw them a parade.”