Elmore man happy to be alive for Christmas
What started as a simple trip to see a doctor to renew his health card for his commercial driver’s license turned into a possible life-saving situation for Bill Carr.
“It was early August. I had waited too long to schedule a physical at United Hospital District (UHD) clinics so I would not be able to get in right away,” Bill, who farms northwest of Elmore, explains. “So I made an appointment with Dr. Chad Malwitz, a chiropractor who does Department of Transportation (DOT) physicals.”
During the physical, Malwitz was concerned when he listened to Bill’s heart.
“He thought he heard a heart murmer and would not pass me until I received a second opinion,” Bill says.
So he made an appointment to see his daughter-in-law, Mandy Carr, who is married to Bill’s son Nate. Mandy is a physician assistant at UHD.
“Mandy could not hear a murmer so I went back to the chiropractic clinic and this time Dr. Malwitz could not hear anything either,” Bill remarks.
But before Malwitz would pass him for his DOT physical, he made the Elmore farmer promise to have a complete physical at UHD.
“Of course Mandy made sure I followed through on my promise,” Bill says with a smile.
He returned to UHD and saw Dr. Bob Karp. Many tests were done including an electrocardiogram (ECG). It was discovered Bill had an ascending aortic aneurysm which occurs when the aortic wall becomes weakened and enlarges. An ascending aortic aneurysm is very serious because a rupture results in a life-threatening situation.
Bill was referred to a cardiac surgeon at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis.
“I was put on medication to slow my heart rate and lower my blood pressure and had to restrict my physical activity until the surgery could be performed,” Bill comments.
Surgery was set for Oct. 29, because it was the first day two cardiac surgeons were available, which is required for the procedure Bill was to have.
His surgery was to be a valve sparing aortic repair and as the name implies, the intent of the surgery was to save his heart valve which was located next to the aneurysm.
He was at the hospital at 6 a.m. for the scheduled 8:30 a.m. surgery.
Bill’s wife Suz, along with their daughter Nicole, Nate and Mandy, were all present in the waiting room during the surgery.
“We received an update at noon,” Suz comments. “Things were going well and he should be done in awhile.”
It was close to 4 p.m. and the family had not received any further news so Mandy took action to find out what was going on.
“We were told the surgeons were just finishing up and would be done shortly,” Suz recalls.
Two hours later Suz was able to see her husband.
“Our family now jokes about the meaning of ‘awhile’ and ‘shortly’,” Suz says.
When Bill woke up the first thing he saw was his wife looking down at him.
“She said, ‘you made it,'” Bill says with a laugh. “And then I was out.”
Later, the family learned the details of the surgery and why it took longer than anticipated.
“The surgeons attempted to save my valve but were unable to do so. They actually started and stopped my heart three times during the surgery but eventually they had to install a mechanical valve,” Bill explains.
There were some complications during the first night of recovery; there was concern over the amount of blood coming out of Bill’s drainage tubes.
“The surgeon was back by his side at 9:30 p.m. and stayed until 2 a.m.,” Suz says. “But the surgeon told me he was going to make it and I should get some rest.”
Bill was in intensive care for two days before moving to a regular room. He was able to come home on Monday, Nov. 4, but required someone to be with him 24/7.
His sister Joan stayed with him the first couple of days and other family members took their turns watching him.
“By Friday (Nov. 8) I was feeling good and went outside,” Bill shares.
He saw Dr. Karp later in the day over some concerns about drainage, but things were okay.
“Then I fell asleep at 5 p.m. and slept until midnight when Suz woke me up so I could take my medication,” he says. “I woke up Saturday morning and had no appetite and wanted to sleep.”
A call to Abbott was made and Bill was taken to UHD for an ECG and blood-work.
The tests revealed he had suffered a heart attack.
“Next thing I know I am getting in a helicopter and heading back to Abbott,” Bill remarks. “I told the pilot I had always wanted to see the UHD hellipad, but not like this.”
He was hooked to IVs for the 30-40 minute helicopter ride and ended up staying in the hospital for three days while tests were being conducted.
“They were looking for a clot and making sure everything was okay,” Bill explained. “They are not sure what caused the heart attack; it might have been a small blood clot.”
The good news Bill received was little damage had occurred and the heart would heal.
He was restricted to lifting no more than 10 pounds until Dec. 16, when he began his cardio rehabilitation. He is now allowed to lift up to 20 pounds.
But, since Bill is a farmer, there is another part of this story which needs to be told.
With Carr sidelined for most of the fall he had to rely on others to take care of getting the crops out of the field and tilling the ground.
“My son Nate, Roger Dutton and Mitch Murphy are my regular helpers and they were great,” Bill explained. “Nate had to step in and take over my role.”
And while those three did most of the work, there were many others who also lent their services to the life-long farmer.
“It is not like this was an easy fall for any farmer attempting to harvest his crop,” Bill comments. “I cannot tell you how many times I was brought to tears by the people who helped and offered to help. The outpouring of support was incredible.”
He is also thankful for the medical care he received.
“Everybody at UHD and Abbott was great,” Carr shares. “Our local hospital is such an asset to our community.”
And of course there were the family members who were there to support and take care of him.
“I am pretty blessed,” Bill says. “I have a lot of people looking out for me.”