Sartell Muskie Back Thanks to CentraCare Heart & Vascular Team

Heart & Vascular Care
“I recommend CentraCare Heart & Vascular Center. They are one of the top hospitals in the country for heart care — so it was pretty much a no-brainer.”

“You’re not our typical patient,” are the words that rang in Tim Burns’ ear when he learned he needed quintuple bypass surgery in May 2023.

The otherwise healthy 37-year-old Sartell athlete suffered a mild heart attack that took him out of the game he loved. Thanks to his wife’s intuition and expert care from his medical team at CentraCare Heart & Vascular Center, the class C amateur baseball player for the Sartell Muskies is back on the baseball diamond.

It was December 2022 when Tim started using his in-home exercise bike. He noticed after the holidays his workouts seemed progressively more difficult. His neck and body ached, he was out of breath and felt lightheaded.

Life seemed to return to normal until April 2023 when Tim and his wife, Brittany, were on their way to a concert in the Twin Cities. Even though it was a cool spring afternoon, Tim remembers he could not stop sweating.

“Just walking a block and a half, I started sweating and felt like I was going to pass out. My wife is a nurse and was concerned, so at the concert, we started making appointments to get checked out.”

With a stress test appointment planned, Tim continued to live life as normal. “I attended a wedding the weekend before my stress test and had a good time,” he remembers.

But the next day Tim was folding laundry and started feeling uneasy again. He had a baseball game with the Sartell Muskies that afternoon and decided to try and play the game anyway. “I figured I’ve lived with this for how long, I’m sure it’s fine,” he insisted.

During Tim’s first at-bat, he was shaking and felt lightheaded even though he had not been doing anything physical yet. With a walk to first, the baseball player knew he needed to take himself out of the game.

Brittany insisted Tim needed to get emergency care. “At first, I said, ‘No, it’s OK — maybe go later.’ Finally, she started showing tears and I went in.”

Tim checked into CentraCare – St. Cloud Hospital Emergency Services where he underwent cardiac testing. His care team found an elevated level of troponin in his bloodstream. Troponin is a protein released into the blood when there’s heart muscle damage with a heart attack.

“They told me that could be a sign that I might have had a heart attack and decided to do an angiogram to know for sure,” he detailed.

On May 7, 2023, Tim underwent a coronary computerized tomography (CT) angiogram to look at his heart’s blood vessels. After about 20 minutes, his care team stopped the procedure to let him know he had six blockages in his arteries.

Tim Burns and family“It was great to finally get answers, but at the same time, I was shocked to find out I was going to have one of the biggest surgeries you can probably have.” He continued, “My daughter Ryleigh had just turned 2 and my wife was pregnant with our son, Cohen. I was going through many emotions.”

Before surgery, Tim was reassured by his care team he was in excellent hands.

“My nurse said, ‘Good news! You are getting the magician.’ They call Dr. Castro the magician because he does all the crazy multi-bypass surgeries.”

CentraCare Heart Surgeon Nathaniel John U. Castro, MD, performed Tim’s quintuple bypass surgery on May 10 using an artery from Tim’s left arm and left and right thoracic arteries from his chest. Traditionally surgeons have used veins for this type of surgery because of a lack of spare body parts. “However, God never really intended for veins to carry high-pressure blood,” said Dr. Castro. “When you can use arteries rather than veins, results are more durable.”

Only 7.5% of cardiac surgeons in the United States use both the left and right internal thoracic arteries when doing a total arterial coronary artery revascularization/bypass because it is a longer and more technically demanding surgery.

Dr. Castro detailed, “Age is just a number. I look at the patient as a whole and their general health. If I think the patient will be able to tolerate a longer and more complicated surgery, recover from it well, and reap benefits from it in the long term, I will not hesitate to invest a few more hours for the patient.”

Tim Burns and daughter fishingFollowing the surgery and motivated to get home, Tim was willing to do whatever Dr. Castro advised. “The first night I was already standing and walked 50 feet outside my room and came back. The next day I was walking laps to help the recovery process,” said Tim.

After being discharged from the hospital, Tim was placed on a heart-healthy diet, a weight restriction and completed two and a half months of cardiac rehab. He was able to return to his full-time office job three weeks post-surgery. His enhanced recovery was due in part to Dr. Castro’s use of titanium plates to put his sternum back together, resulting in less pain, easier rehabilitation and faster healing.

“I mentioned the idea of playing baseball again. They told me as soon as I was comfortable with my body, I could return. The next day I went to practice, took a few swings and everything felt good.”

Tim was the designated hitter in his first baseball game post-surgery on July 29, 2023, which happened to be his 38th birthday.

Tim Burns and family“I ended up finishing the 6 or 7 games left in the year. I played first base, and we went to the state tournament again. It was a crazy rollercoaster over those three months.”

Tim credits his wife Brittany’s knowledge as a nurse and his excellent care team for getting him back on the field so quickly.

“I recommend CentraCare Heart & Vascular Center. They are one of the top hospitals in the country for heart care — so it was pretty much a no-brainer. Everyone was great, and I have nothing but good things to say.”

CentraCare Heart & Vascular Center is one of the largest and most advanced cardiovascular programs in Minnesota, with more than 60,000 patient encounters each year. In 2023, Fortune/PINC™ named St. Cloud Hospital a Top 50 Cardiovascular Hospital.