Back on Track with Cardiac Surgery and Rehab in St. Cloud

Heart & Vascular Care
“You can control some things in life, other things you cannot. When given a second chance, you must keep moving.”

One November afternoon Ken Fruth of Avon felt extreme pain in his chest while doing yardwork. The pain subsided, to his relief, so he kept the experience to himself. He didn’t want to worry his wife, Jan, or for a health situation to interfere with his active lifestyle, which included snowmobiling, hunting and more recently, the resumption of offroad dirt bike racing.

Ken had competed in offroad racing for 15 years until a back issue forced him out of the sport at the age of 40. The sport involves a one-hour race, rain or shine, on various terrains including two track trails, wood trails and hills — all to test a rider’s skill and conditioning. Ken stated, “I was very competitive over the years, always finishing very well, including numerous first place finishes.” After healing his back and two knee replacements, Ken decided to start racing again, after a 26-year break, alongside his son.

However, that goal changed on December 6, 2020, when the pain returned, this time much worse. Ken asked Jan to bring him to CentraCare – St. Cloud Hospital, where an angiogram showed blockages within his arteries. Ken underwent a triple bypass surgery two days later, performed by Cardiothoracic Surgeon Daren Danielson, MD. Dr. Danielson is part of an elite surgical team at CentraCare Heart & Vascular Center, which has been recognized by Consumer Reports and U.S. News & World Report for its quality of care.

After spending a week in the hospital and another week at home recovering, Ken went to his post-surgical visit with one thought in mind. “I wanted to know, when can I ride again?” said Ken.

Ken knew dirt bike racing was physically demanding and to compete, he would need to build back strength with a new diet and exercise. He learned those skills through the Pritikin Intensive Cardiac Rehab (ICR) program at St. Cloud Hospital, where he attended classes 2-3 times per week. Pritikin ICR is one of only three intensive cardiac rehab programs to be approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for its effectiveness in preventing and reversing the progression of heart disease. The program takes 12 to 18 weeks, depending on a patient’s schedule and progress.

“Performing surgery or placing a stent is just one part of a person’s treatment,” said Dr. Danielson. “From there, it is up to the patient to make changes to aid in their short-term recovery and long-term health. I find it is helpful for a patient to set goals and to have something to live for.”

For Ken, he planned to be back on his bike on May 1, the first date in an 11-part offroad dirt bike race series, which takes place from spring to fall in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Rehabilitation took longer for Ken than he hoped, but he kept pushing toward his goal. “I often questioned, is this ever going to get better?” said Ken. “But being in my shoes, you have no options. You just do it. My family kept me motivated and reminded me every day to keep moving forward.”

Through work, determination and a deep appreciation for a second chance at life, Ken reached his goal of riding on May 1. He stated, “You can control some things in life, other things you cannot. When given a second chance, you must keep moving.”

Ken now lives with great vibrancy and gratitude for life. His son Mitchell says, “Dad is strong, and when he sets a goal, there is nothing stopping him!”