Dave Wagner stands in his home workshop, carefully sanding the door to a cabinet that he’s finishing for his daughter’s house.
“I always like to have a project going,” says the 66-year-old Webster man, as he works. “I’m not the kind of guy who just comes home to sit and watch T.V.”
Just a few months ago, Wagner was looking forward to an active semi-retirement with plenty of workshop time and maybe even a project restoring a classic car. He had no idea that his health and his heart were in great danger.
No warning signs
The farm implement salesman was in pretty good shape. Occasionally, when working really hard to shovel the snow or lift something really heavy, his chest would hurt a little bit, but he didn’t really have any regular problems.
Which was why he wasn’t exactly thrilled when his wife suggested that they go to a heart screening at Sanford Webster Hospital.
The couple’s son Greg, who is head of the radiology department there, had suggested that his parents take advantage of a $50 special on a series of heart screening tests.
“He figured he’d have better luck telling his mom about it,” says Wagner with a hearty laugh. “I really didn’t see any reason why I ought to go.”
Taking the tests
The initial tests measured levels of calcium in his arteries that were troublesome. Further stress tests made Wagner’s doctor recommend some additional screening to check if there were any blockages or abnormalities in his veins.
On July 1, Wagner drove to Sioux Falls for a Computed Tomography (CT) Angiogram.
He didn’t expect the test, which uses X-rays to take detailed images of his heart and blood vessels, to find anything wrong. Wagner wasn’t pleased about having to take the time to have one more screening.
“On the way to Sioux Falls, I said ‘there’s nothing wrong. I bet we’re wasting our time,’” Wagner said. “I really didn’t want to do it.”
Waking up to trouble
However, when Wagner woke up in the recovery room following the test, he got the news that all four arteries were 98 percent blocked. In fact, during the time that he was recovering from the anesthesia, his heart had stopped twice. By the next morning, Wagner was being prepped for a quadruple bypass.
“The doctor’s comment to me was that if I had had a heart attack in Webster, I never would have made it in time to Sioux Falls,” Wagner said. “While I figure that if it’s your time to go, you go, I’m quite happy to still be around.”
Following the surgery, Wagner’s recovery was quick. For about a month, he followed up with cardio therapy, exercising to help keep his heart healthy.
He realized how lucky he was to have his heart problems diagnosed without having a heart attack that can cause long-term damage.
“A healthy heart makes your recovery go really, really well,” Wagner said. “Because I didn’t suffer a heart attack, it was much easier for me than guys even five or 10 years younger.”
Living with a healthy heart
Today, Wagner works out on a treadmill every day and eats a healthy diet. He’s looking forward to a schedule that will give him time to do the sales work he enjoys, but still have plenty of time to fish when the fish are biting, tinker in his workshop or spend time with his 16 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Since his surgery, Wagner has thanked his son for suggesting the tests that likely saved his life. He also has been quick to tell his friends and neighbors his story. The next time the screenings are offered in Webster, he expects many people to take advantage of the opportunity to check the health of their heart.
“Even if you have no symptoms, you absolutely should be doing this,” Wagner said. “It’s not an expensive or difficult procedure and it could save your life.”