Jim Moritz enjoys trap shooting for sport, but he knew something wasn’t right when he couldn’t catch his breath to compete at an event in Missouri two years ago.
“I was short of breath and I couldn’t stand on the line to shoot the 100 targets,” Jim said. He alerted his wife, Janice, and they returned home.
Jim had an echocardiogram at The Heart Center at Sarah Bush Lincoln and discovered the results were alarming. He learned that his heart was only working at 23 percent of its capacity. “I was in shock, because I thought I had COPD [Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease].”
Jim was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. He learned that his lungs were full of fluid and the fluid was causing his shortness of breath.
His doctor also discovered a clot in his heart was obstructing blood flow. “My heart was having to work twice as hard,” Jim said.
He began taking medication and was encouraged to enroll in cardiac rehabilitation classes through SBL Monitored Exercise Testing Services (METS). His doctor also insisted that Jim wear a LifeVest defibrillator since he was at high risk of dying suddenly from a heart attack. “I’ve known since I was young that I would probably die of a heart attack,” Jim said. “My mother had congestive heart failure, and my grandfather had five heart attacks before the age of 55.”
METS has been a lifesaver for Jim because it’s taught him how to live with heart failure. “METS is a great program. The staff members answer all my questions. They check my blood pressure and make sure I’m doing the right things,” he said. By exercising faithfully three days a week, eating better and taking his medication, Jim’s heart function began to improve to a near-normal level a year later. “I made a lot of progress and my health was improving,” he said.
Yet, two years later, Jim’s health suddenly took a turn for the worse while he was working in his yard on a hot summer day. “I started having severe chest pain. I’d never had chest pain like that before. I just wanted to crawl out of my skin,” he said.
Jim called for EMT assistance and was taken to the SBL Emergency Department, where he was given nitroglycerin. As soon as the pain went away, Jim refused further treatment, despite his doctor’s advice.
When the chest pain returned a few days later, Jim went back to the ER for more nitroglycerin. He also went to The Heart Center for a stress test. When Jim made a third trip to the ER, his doctor refused to release him, even though Jim had an appointment with his cardiologist the next morning.
“The doctor took a look at my stress test and said I wasn’t going anywhere,” Jim said. “My condition was much worse than I had thought.” Prairie Heart Cardiologist Amit Dande, MD, who practices at Sarah Bush Lincoln, performed an emergency cardiac catheterization. “I was impressed with how quickly they worked me in, because the cath lab was very busy that day,” he said. “Everyone had to stay late for me and I’m very grateful.” Jim learned that he had dangerous blockages in two major arteries; one was 92 percent blocked and the other was 72 percent blocked.
Dr. Dande inserted three stents in the most severely blocked artery to restore the blood flow to Jim’s heart. A few days later, a fourth stent was inserted to restore the blood flow in the other artery. A stent is a medicated piece of wire mesh that is placed into the blocked portion of the artery to help keep it open. “I’m fascinated by what they can do,” Jim said. “My stubbornness almost cost me my life. I was shocked that the blockage was so severe, but that’s just the progression of this disease.”
Jim is now back to exercising regularly at METS. “My health is improving. I no longer have chest pains,” he said. “I’m still trying to regain my energy, but if I can stay with the program, then I think I’ll be able to enjoy my golden years. I put my faith in it anyway.”
While Jim recently graduated from phase 2 METS, he plans to continue going to improve his health. “At 66, I’m not ready to check out yet,” he said. “I’ll do anything the instructors tell me to do, if it will keep me healthy.”
Jim is also happy to be trap shooting again. He has designed a wheeled walker complete with a gun rack so he can sit comfortably and shoot. “There’s a lot of guys that shoot from their chairs,” he said. “I have to have something to do or I’ll go crazy.”
Jim also credits Family Practitioner Bernie Ranchero, MD, for his support in managing his overall health. “I’ve been a diabetic for more than 30 year and Dr. Ranchero is my lead guy. His people have gone to bat for me so many times,” he said. Jim has suffered several work-related injuries, having worked in the concrete industry for many years. He oversaw the construction of concrete dams across the country and internationally, before returning to his hometown of Mattoon in the ’90s.
“I’m falling apart, but I’m still here,” Jim said. “I’ve had great medical care. I’m alive only because of this facility.”
For more information about The Heart Center, or to make an appointment, call 217 238-4960.
For more information about cardiac rehabilitation classes through METS, call 217 258-2177.