By TERRY RINDFLEISCH | Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Hear Michael tell his story.
Michael Boehde, who underwent minimally invasive heart surgery at Gundersen in 2010, said he was motivated in rehab to return to his running routine.
Michael Boehde can’t show off his huge chest scar like thousands of other heart surgery patients have proudly done for years.
He doesn’t have one.
The 54-year-old Onalaska man didn’t have the traditional heart bypass surgery. He had the new minimally invasive heart surgery at Gundersen Health system, where Dr. Prem Rabindra performed the operation through three small incisions and without breaking the ribs or the breastbone.
Boehde has a scar less than 4 inches long under his left nipple after surgery. He said that scar healed up quite quickly and can now barely be seen.
“There were no broken bones, and the faster recovery was wonderful with less pain and suffering,” Boehde said. “Dr. Rabindra gives you a lot of confidence, so I thought it would work out fine.
“But if there were problems, we could go ahead and do it the traditional way,” he said. “I knew the surgery was new, but I was in good condition and in good hands.”
Boehde, a development engineer at Trane Co. for 32 years, had quadruple bypass surgery on Jan. 18 and returned home three days later. He has been among Rabindra’s 25 patients to have the less invasive surgery during the past five months.
“I felt physically really good after surgery, but the heart is still slow to heal,” he said.
But less than four months after surgery, Boehde ran the 5k run with his daughter, Rachel Burrow, at the La Crosse Fitness Festival. He finished the 3.1 mile race in 32 minutes, 17 seconds.
“I felt really good and still finished under 33 minutes,” Boehde said.
He wore a heart monitor to make sure he didn’t run too fast to hurt this heart.
“I don’t want to do much more than the heart is ready for,” he said. “I have a speed limit, where I need to keep the heart rate at when I run.”
Boehde finished the race less than three weeks after being discharged from cardiac rehabilitation. He said he was already running 1½ miles when he left cardiac rehab and then started running 2½ to 3 miles, four times a week to prepare for the fitness run.
“I was anxious to get back running,” Boehde said.
He is preparing to run in the Chileda race over the Fourth of July weekend, but hasn’t decided whether to run the 5k or 10k.
Boehde was in pretty good shape when he had heart surgery, but that wasn’t always the case.
He was a couch potato until he turned 50 years old four years ago. He weighed 218 pounds at 5-foot, 11 inches tall, and had not run a mile since high school.
“I felt I needed to make a change,” he said. “I was never a track guy. I was a slow kid that played baseball, but I decided I had to do something — lose weight, diet and exercise.
That’s exactly what he did. First he walked and then he ran.
He started running races with his two daughters, Rachel and Dawn Boehde, an exercise physiologist in the cardiac rehab unit at Vernon Memorial Hospital in Viroqua.
Last year Boehde ran in nine races, and he has run 10k races and completed four half-marathons.
He has lost more than 60 pounds in those four years.
“It took about 15 months to lose most of the weight,” Boehde said.
Boehde said he experienced shortness of breathing during a race in Sparta last year. It was a hot day, and he didn’t think much of it. His race times started to drop, and he had trouble finishing a 10k run in Minneapolis last October. He had shortness of breath during his training for the race.
“I just couldn’t breathe, but I didn’t think it was the heart,” he said. “I didn’t look good when I finished the race, so I made an appointment with my doctor.”
Boehde had heart tests, including a stress test. Doctors thought he might have a heart valve problem, but an the MRI should nothing unusual.
“But this time I was short of breath climbing the stairs,” he said.
In early January, an angiogram showed heart vessel blockage and he needed four bypasses.
“I was shocked, the furthest thing from my mind was a heart attack,” Boehde said. “I never had a heart attack, and the only time I had symptoms is when I ran. I was perfectly fine unless I ran.
“I could have died out there running, but I never felt that bad,” he said.
Boehde, who has a family history of heart disease, said he doesn’t know whether he will run a half-marathon again, but he has set realistic goals.
“I was motivated in rehab to get back to my running, and they never had to ask me to do things like exercise,” Boehde said. “I was motivated to get back to where I had been before surgery.”