Doug R's Story

Heart & Vascular Care
“For Doug, a visit to the emergency room in Brainerd to check on his heart suddenly turned into a helicopter flight where Doug coded three times during the trip to St. Cloud Hospital. ”

Déjà vu of the Heart

Doug Rach, a previous heart attack patient, found himself feeling déjà vu. Although the 63-year-old wasn’t experiencing the same symptoms as his first heart attack, something just didn’t seem right.

“I told Doug, ‘Let’s just go in for a lookie-loo in Brainerd and we can grab a Dairy Queen ice cream on the way home,’” said Billie-Jo, Doug’s wife.
Whether it was the promise of ice cream or simply fate, Doug and Billie-Jo went to the emergency room in Brainerd. The next thing Doug remembers is waking up two-weeks later in St. Cloud Hospital from a medically induced coma.

Doug later learned he coded three times during the helicopter flight to St. Cloud. The EMTs put Doug under the care of the LUCAS CPR machine. The machine gave Doug chest compressions for a total of 40 minutes. Doug proudly bears a scar in the middle of his chest from the 40-minute battle. Arriving in cardiac arrest, Doug was defibrillated and had a stent placed in his artery. When Doug woke up from his coma, doctors, family and friends were all relieved, and a little surprised, to see that Doug didn’t bear any sort of brain defect from being without oxygen for such a long time.

During Doug’s hospital stay, his family could do nothing but wait and pray for a speedy recovery. The waiting was difficult, but Billie-Jo said the hospitality from CentraCare helped immensely with the transition.

“Dr. Brian Stegman made sure that we were focused on what was happening now with Doug, not what could happen. He kept us focused on the day-to-day progress, not the long-term,” said Billie-Jo.

When Doug was released from St. Cloud Hospital for home, 19 days after he arrived, the Rachs knew it would be a long road ahead, one filled with cardiac rehab, follow-up appointments and limited activity, which Doug struggled with the most. However, he is motivated to get his health back knowing that he’s lucky to be here.

“Part of the reason I am still here is because of CentraCare. I know they are one of the top places to go for cardiology, but I think that their staff should be ranked number one. For people who do this job day in and day out, to still have the care and attention that they bring to everyone is incredible,” said Doug.

“It’s really nice knowing that the new CentraCare Care Specialty Clinic – Baxter is right in our backyard,” added Billie-Jo. “It’s such a relief.”

As far as living in the now, the Rachs are focusing on the little things.

“I wish I was further along with my recovery, but that has nothing to do with my willingness to recover. It has to do with the condition of my heart. My condition isn’t where I want to be, but I’m alive and I can cook my wife dinner. That’s what matters,” said Doug.