Breezy Point Man is Back Again After Cardiac Arrest

“To know that my care is local and all under one roof now means a lot to me.”

Doug Rach, a former mayor of Breezy Point, Minn., felt a sense of déjà vu. Although he wasn’t experiencing the same symptoms as his first heart attack, something just didn’t seem right.

He and his wife, Billie Jo, decided to make a quick trip to the emergency room to put their minds at ease before going out for some ice cream. That quick trip turned into a helicopter flight to CentraCare – St. Cloud Hospital.

While in the air, Doug coded multiple times and was ultimately placed on a LUCAS CPR machine to provide blood flow to his body. The machine gave Doug chest compressions for a total of 40 minutes. Doug arrived at the hospital in cardiac arrest. At that point, CentraCare Heart & Vascular Center Cardiologist Brian Stegman, MD, used a tiny heart pump, called an Impella, to maintain blood flow while he opened up a completely blocked heart artery and another severely narrowed heart artery. Doug then went to the CICU while the Impella allowed his heart to rest and recover and his body temperature was carefully controlled to give him the best possible chance to have neurologic recovery.

When Doug woke up from a medically induced coma, doctors, family, and friends were all relieved to learn that Doug didn’t bear any ill effects from being without oxygen for such a long time. While Doug continued to recover at the hospital, Billie Jo said the hospitality from CentraCare helped immensely.

Doug fishing with granddaughtersThey had the opportunity to gather as a family to celebrate Thanksgiving in a room adjacent to Doug’s at St. Cloud Hospital. They also were able to stay at the Gorecki Guest House so someone could always be near Doug. “The staff were just so comforting with everything we needed, and they made us feel like family. It’s the tiny things that count.” said Billie Jo.

Doug was released from St. Cloud Hospital after 19 days. He then underwent cardiac rehab. Doug said, “I worked my tail off to prove to them that I was ready for home.” He faced a long road ahead with limited activity. Grateful for being alive, he now cherishes life's small moments, like cooking for his wife, putzing around his 24-acre ranch, spending time with his horses and fishing in his pond. He also finds joy in spending time with their four children and seven grandchildren.

“The doctors and nurses continue to provide us with support, comfort and confidence,” said Billie Jo. Doug goes to the CentraCare – Baxter Clinic for his primary care and follow-up cardiology appointments. This convenient and local option grants patients access to cutting edge heart care, multiple cardiac specialists and various procedural and device clinical trials that are not offered at any other Minnesota institutions.

A signed T-shirt by Dr. Stegman reminds Doug of how hard he fought to get where he is today.
A signed T-shirt by Dr. Stegman reminds Doug
of how hard he fought to get where he is today.
“To know that my care is local and all under one roof now means a lot to me,” said Doug, who added that his doctors communicate with each other. Because of his steady recovery, Doug undergoes a check-up approximately once a year with Dr. Stegman or Rebecca Wirtz, APRN, CNP. “They are always readily available,” said Doug. “If I am feeling any kind of complications, they’ll get me in.”

“Being part of Doug’s case is incredibly humbling for me. Knowing that I helped him get back to cherishing life with his loved ones is truly amazing,” said Dr. Stegman.

Doug emphasized that he has full confidence in CentraCare Heart & Vascular Center and would recommend their services in a heartbeat.

And from time to time, he’ll celebrate with an ice cream treat.