Fifty-four-year-old Mike Jorgenson has been a member of the La Crosse Fire Department for the past 32 years. His family and fellow firefighters know there is very little that will stop him in his tracks.
But on June 6, Mike knew something wasn’t quite right. He hadn’t been sleeping well and experienced difficulty breathing. He initially thought it was a reaction to the food he had eaten the night before. But when his shortness of breath continued to worsen, Mike asked his wife, Pennie, to take him to Gundersen’s Trauma & Emergency Center.
There, doctors performed a chest X-ray and CAT scan. Further testing, including an echocardiogram and heart catheterization, revealed he had three blockages in his heart. At just 54 years of age, this diagnosis, alone, was enough to take Mike's breath away. Gundersen cardiovascular surgeon, Dr. Prem Rabindra, said Mike would need major heart surgery to repair the blockages. That would mean time away from work and many weeks dedicated to cardiac rehabilitation.
Ironically, just a few weeks earlier, Mike heard about Gundersen's new minimally invasive coronary surgery in which multiple bypasses can be performed through one small incision, with no need to 'crack the chest.' He joked with his colleagues saying, "If I ever need heart surgery, that's the way I'd go!" Not only is there less pain but people can get back to their everyday lives in a fraction of the time.
Little did he know, he'd be in a hospital bed discussing this very issue just a couple weeks later. Though not all patients are candidates for this surgery, Mike was relieved to hear from Dr. Rabindra that he was a good fit.
He spent just four days in the hospital following a successful surgery. Through cardiac rehab at Gundersen and his efforts at home, Mike continues to show progress and grows stronger every day. At one point, Dr. Rabindra had to remind him to slow down—not something you'd expect to hear right after major heart surgery.
"We are fortunate, here in the Coulee Region, to be one of only a handful of places in the country where you can have minimally invasive heart surgery," says Mike. And he can't say enough about the Gundersen staff. "Everyone, including Dr. Rabindra and his surgical team, the exercise physiologists, nurses and housekeeping staff, were incredibly polite and sincere. I couldn't have asked for a more dedicated team."