With no history of heart disease or major health problems, former long-distance runner Fred Koogler’s heart attack in 2010 came as a shock because he is so physically fit. Though he hadn’t been feeling well all day, the sudden numbness in his limbs and pain in his back and chest during his band’s performance caused immediate concern. He was rushed to the nearest hospital and then life flighted to Des Moines. “I died…while they were putting me on the helicopter and again in the hallway on the way to the surgical suite,” said Fred.
After spending several days in intensive care, he returned home to recover. Doctors explained to Fred that, “It was a ‘fluke’ heart attack. They [cardiologists] told me that my coronary artery was 95-98% open. A piece of plaque dislodged from my artery, but my brain misinterpreted that as, ‘Oh, he’s having an aneurism.’ So a clot formed in my heart to stop me from bleeding out (my brain thought), and I had a heart attack.” Back at Pella Regional, Dr. Rob Bruxvoort also “really took a lot of time to look at my charts and explain to me exactly what had happened…he’s a great doctor.”
Beginning cardiac rehabilitation meant a lifestyle change for Fred. Although he was very healthy before the attack, the aftermath required him to be extra vigilant with his exercise and eating habits. “My wife and I buy as much organic and fresh food as we can.” Because he had never had any health problems, Fred kept asking himself, “Why did this happen to me?” The Cardiac Services staff helped him deal with that feeling, “They were wonderful to me…They helped me find the willpower and motivation I needed” Fred did 24 sessions of cardiac rehab and improved greatly, saying, “I was disappointed when the sessions were over.”
After being told that he had 40-60% tissue loss in his heart, Fred was determined to improve that number. Months later, and after a lot of hard work on his own, test results showed that he no longer had any tissue loss! “I’m the miracle child for this cardiac rehab program…I worked very hard, but there’s no other explanation than a miracle for me to now have no scarring or tissue loss.” Fred gives credit to everyone on the cardiac rehab staff. During his sessions, “They were worried about me, constantly.” Even though he no longer comes to rehabilitation sessions, “They’re like family. I drop in every now and then to say hello. I can’t say how much I appreciate them.”
Fred didn’t just get rid of the scar tissue; he also significantly reduced his need for the many medications he was prescribed. “I’m not a person that likes medication. I was determined to get off all the medication I was on.” Now 40 pounds lighter and needing very little medication, Fred feels great. “I was back playing music and performing 3 weeks after the attack.” Although many instruments are now too heavy for an extended performance, Fred had a lighter weight bass guitar custom-made for him so he could prolong his career as a professional musician.
Not only did Fred’s exercise and eating routines change, but also his outlook on life. “I’ve been given a second chance…there’s a reason I’m alive.” He now surrounds himself with positive people and focuses on enjoying life. “If something’s not fun and it’s stressful, I’m not going to do it.”
Since the heart attack, Fred takes nothing for granted. He says, “It’s hard work…I have to be very careful what I eat, exercise daily and get plenty of rest…it’s a lifestyle change and I’m committed to it for my family and for myself.” As part of that change, he has put much of his energy into performing more, tutoring elementary school children in reading and math, and also writing and teaching continuing education courses for financial professionals through Community Educators, LLC, headquartered in Dubuque. He really wants to bring good ethics to business classes and emphasize to financial professionals the importance of providing wise, ethical and charitable guidance for their clients. Fred is definitely keeping his word on “finding and accentuating the positive and being true to myself.”
Learn more about cardiac rehabilitation at Pella Regional.