L-R: Andrew Wilke, Todd Hammond, Maggie Sullivan, Shoe, Leah Hazzard, and Heather Konkol. (Contributed)

Column: From the carpet to the cardiac unit

By Tim “Shoe” Sullivan

April 17, 2024, was a monumental day. I had been experiencing back pains for over a month. I thought the pain came from many hours of pulling up an old carpet by hand.

So I finally decided to do something about it. I drove over to Aspirus (St. Mike’s) on Illinois Ave. and checked in with Todd Hammond, a physical therapist.

Todd went on a short walk with me and asked some questions. And then came his comment which floored me. Todd said: “I don’t really think we have a back issue here. I think it’s your heart.”

And he was right!

Todd brought in another therapist, Andrew Wilke, and Andrew confirmed Todd’s thoughts. They both thought I was having a heart attack!

Andrew immediately put me in a wheelchair and wheeled me into Emergency. The back pain was no longer an issue. The next thing I knew, I was in the back of an ambulance, riding to the Wausau hospital. Dave Diamond from the Plover Fire Department rode in the back with me to give me comforting thoughts.

In Wausau, I was given the choice of having surgery or not. After thinking it over for a day, I chose to let Dr. Amanda Eilers perform the triple-pass surgery.

The heart surgery went well. I stayed in the Wausau Hospital for six days, and the hospital’s amazing staff were all awesome! The only bad part was the hospital food.

After I was discharged, I went back later and gave the hospital folks 36 cupcakes.

After my Wausau Hospital stay, I was a guest of my friends Allie Rutta Parmer and Jeremy Parmer for eleven days. Along with their kids Kali and Garrett, they made sure I ate right and got in my “walks”. Their family was so nice.

Then it was finally back home, and on May 15, I entered the 36-week “rehab” program at St Mike’s. This was after two weeks of Chuck Cisewski and others from the hospital dropping by frequently to see how I was doing.

I want to go on record now that their “rehab” program is beyond outstanding! They have so many wonderful people on staff, including Maggie Sullivan who seems to be the leader along with her boss Leah. (By the way, the staff always plays an oldie station on the radio and all 15 or so of the patients try to guess who’s singing the songs. My favorite is “Mack the Knife,” and we all sing “Maggie’s back in town!” at the proper moment. And the others like Heather, Danielle, Kaitlyn, Jack, Ashley, Andrew, and Leah are all terrific.

Aspirus volunteers Don “Ducko” Ceplina and Mike “Caz” Spreda have also been very helpful.

The staff really works with you during rehab. We get on a pedal machine and pedal. My first day, I did 800 “steps.” The sessions are every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and they go for about an hour and a half. My steps are now up to 2200. They keep reminding us that the workouts aren’t a race. They’re more like a marathon.

Then it’s time for a few “laps” which means a short walk. I’m at 880 fert now, up from 400.

Then we have a short exercise segment and a class at the end. Then we can go.

A huge “highlight” happened on May 20. Aspirus decided to honor Todd Hammond with their “Good Catch” Award! It basically meant that Todd detected the heart attack and actually saved my life. I joined the 30 or so Aspirus people who attended Todd’s award presentation which included the CEO and several others.

So now you know about my out-of-the-blue triple-bypass. The question is…what brought it on? I think it was a family thing as several family members have had heart issues. And smoking for many years didn’t help.

The crazy thing is that since my surgery, I know at least 15 people who also have recently had heart problems. Hell, two of them are actually in my class.

Just goes to show… you never know. Live every day to the fullest, and try to make the world better each and every day.