What do you say to a very fit, tough-looking guy who’s a 2nd degree black belt in karate and a top-ranked national sparring competitor…about his pink hair!? According to the guy, 54-year-old Curt Hickok, co-owner of H&H Karate in Onalaska, “I didn’t get razed too much.”
But what some people said about Curt’s pink hair was, “congratulations,” “thank you” and “you’re amazing.” Curt, along with his son and business partner, Donald, sported pink hair and pink uniforms for a cause. They even traded in their black belts for pink belts. It’s because their karate students met the challenge to raise at least $1,000 for Gundersen Medical Foundation’s Heart fund. In fact they raised $1,220.46 through a fundraising raffle.
His 21-year-old son had the idea for pink hair first, but his students didn’t think this would be much of an embarrassment for a guy his age. As a result, sales of the raffle tickets were lackluster. But then Donald thought—rightly, as it turned out—that the kids would love the idea of an older, rough-and-tumble tough guy like Curt sporting pink hair.
The money they raised went to a cause near and dear to Curt’s heart…literally. In the fall of 2011, Curt had triple heart bypass surgery at Gundersen. He shares the story:
“I would get tired easily, which was unusual for me, so I went to my primary care doctor, Erik A. Gundersen, MD. Because of my symptoms and a family history of heart disease, he sent me for some tests. The tests revealed blockages in my arteries so severe they couldn’t fix the problem with angioplasty and stents. Instead, I was admitted to the hospital that day and the next morning Dr. [Sajjad] Rizvi performed triple bypass surgery.”
Curt had 100% blockage in the main coronary artery (also known as the widow maker) and up to 80% blockage in two others. His doctors credit Curt’s excellent physical condition for miraculously sidestepping a heart attack. It also led to his remarkably fast recovery.
Curt also gives credits to what he describes as a “fantastic rehab team” in Cardiac Rehab at Gundersen.
Curt’s story is also a cautionary tale worth noting. If you have a family history of heart disease, especially a first-degree family member (parent or sibling), talk with your doctor. Depending on your age, medical history and a physical exam, your provider might recommend a screening test that could save your life.