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metroWELLNESS: Doing it by the Numbers


(page 5 of 7)



FOR KACEY NELKIN PEDERSEN’S DAD a severe heart attack and cardiac arrest almost cost meeting his first grandson.


BEWARE the ides of March,” Dad joked as I told him the day we’d chosen for my baby shower. How true that statement would become. In the late hours of Sunday, March 15, 2009, my Dad Neil Nelkin suffered a heart attack.

After returning home from my baby shower that afternoon, Dad began feeling unbalanced and dizzy and eventually drove himself to the emergency room at The Nebraska Medical Center. Upon arrival, he immediately went into cardiac arrest and nearly died.

The only identification the hospital had was from his wallet, which contained no next-of-kin or emergency information. Through the night doctors found a blockage in the front part of his heart and were able to put in two stints. He had suffered a massive heart attack.

On Monday morning I received a call from worried coworkers who had not heard from my Dad. The police eventually tracked him down at the hospital. By the time I arrived at the hospital, Dad was on a ventilator to breathe, under heavy sedation and had a balloon inserted into his heart to help it function. It was unknown exactly how long he’d gone without sufficient oxygen and if he did wake up, if he’d be the same. His cardiologist told me the next few days were critical in knowing the outcome of this situation. He had no future goals.

Seeing my Dad in an incapacitated state was extremely difficult. He had always been my strong rock, the person I went to in times of need. Now he was the one who needed me. I was a ticking time bomb of emotions and hormones at seven months pregnant. I’ll never forget the way his nurses looked at me the moment I walked into his room in the ICU that day. I sort of became their patient as well. They were so good to me, acknowledging that I would need as little stress in this situation as possible… if possible.

Dad spent the next five days recovering under heavy sedation. Every day that passed he made tremendous progress and continually amazed the doctors and specialists who observed him. Midway through the week, his cardiologist admitted he did not expect him to be alive, let alone be thriving.

By Friday his ventilator was removed and all the other machines were gone. The first time I saw him awake again was such a blessing, but for one very brief moment I wondered if he’d be the same. My Dad is well known for his quick and keen sense of humor. He was tired, weak and confused and could barely speak. But when he did finally speak, he was that same old funny person who was my Dad. He cracked jokes about his unborn grandson and was amazed at the amount of time that had passed.

Soon the realization hit that we had a long road to recovery and a whole new lifestyle to embrace. In addition to the heart attack, we learned Dad had been living undiagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes for some time. When Dad left the hospital his heart was functioning at 33 percent. He began cardiac therapy that summer where he learned about his new diet and exercise routine.

Success hasn’t always come easy in this process, but with sacrifice and determination he has successfully managed his diabetes—going from insulin injections to a twice daily pill, has maintained a 60-pound weight loss with diet and exercise, and has been tobacco-free since the day of his heart attack and cardiac arrest. He goes in for regular check-ups and blood work and sees his cardiologist every July.

Today my Dad is living his life again with his heart functioning at 80 percent! He is healthy and happy and I am so grateful he made such an outstanding recovery. I’m overjoyed to report that he spends Sunday’s with his grandson, Maximus. To think that Max came so close to never knowing his grandfather overwhelms me with emotions. I am so happy to know they will have a long-lasting relationship for many, many years to come.


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