Doing the Heart Good
Bob Knudsen, 69, has not let cardiac arrest, coronary artery disease (CAD) nor quadruple bypass stop his active lifestyle. The avid hockey and weightlifting enthusiast from Shoreline is in the gym every day at 5 a.m. for a workout. You would never know that he had suffered a cardiac arrest during a hockey match in 2004.
"It was early in the game and I was going into the locker room for my water bottle," he said. "I just couldn't breathe – gasping for air – and collapsed in front of the door. The goalie saw me. Thankfully I didn't collapse on the other side of the door."
Knudsen's life was saved by fellow hockey players who began lifesaving CPR and later by Shoreline Fire Department personnel who had to defibrillate him. He was transported to Northwest Hospital for emergency care. Dr. Gary Weeks, of Northwest Hospital's Summit Cardiology, was called in by the Emergency Department team. He discovered Knudsen had a completely blocked coronary artery which had caused his heart attack. In addition, he had several other blocked areas that ultimately would need treatment with bypass surgery.
"Stents were used initially to open up the blocked artery and stabilize his condition," said Dr. Weeks. "Heart disease is unpredictable. Bob thought he was okay – he was in shape and exercised – and then he had a heart attack out of the blue. Studies show that up to 20 percent of patients suffer a first heart attack without knowing they had coronary artery disease. Regular medical check-ups are very important, particularly for individuals with risk factors for heart disease such as high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, cigarette smoking and a family history of heart attack."
After he had recuperated some, Knudsen underwent coronary artery bypass surgery to treat the other blocked arteries. A month following open heart surgery, Knudsen returned to work as a state property acquisition specialist. After surgery, he also began cardiac rehabilitation, working out with weights again and resuming a walking regimen as part of his recovery.
"I usually see Dr. Weeks every six months," Knudsen said. "You know, I never worried about having a heart attack. I was in great physical shape. But that morning I felt different. I blew off the symptoms because I just didn't recognize them. Maybe the heart attack could have been avoided if I had asked for help sooner."
Knudsen explained he never had any of the classic pain symptoms associated with heart attack, but admits he "burned his candle at both ends."
"I am now careful to rest and not become overly tired," he said.
Knudsen had three more stents placed by Dr. Weeks in 2005 for treatment of blockages. Since then, he has brought his cholesterol down substantially with diet, exercise and medications. As a result, he has had no further progression of coronary artery disease.
"He is really doing well and has regular check-ups with me and periodic stress testing," said Dr. Weeks. "To his credit, he watches his blood pressure and is quite good about taking his medication, along with paying attention to proper diet and exercise. He lives good cardiac health with consistent medical follow up."
"Bob is a perfect example of how someone can have a bad medical problem, but with appropriate medical care can return to an active and full lifestyle."
Knudsen is a Washington state bench press champ and plans to compete in the USA Power Lifting Summer Classic in Seattle this summer. He and his wife, Izzy, have been married for 31 years. They have three adult sons who are all avid hockey players and coaches.
"My life has returned to my pre-heart attack days with the wonderful care I'm receiving at Summit Cardiology," he said. "Dr. Weeks is just great. I appreciate my life and do everything I can to reduce the risk factors for another event." Dealing with cardiovascular disease can be a challenging experience. The board-certified cardiologists and nurse practitioners at Summit Cardiology and Western Washington Cardiology work with patients, their families and other members of the healthcare team to provide the best possible care in a supportive and comfortable environment. Both practices are committed to clinical excellence and each offers comprehensive consultation and diagnostic testing services, including electrophysiology, interventional cardiology, vascular and endovascular medicine, cardiac and vascular imaging, and treatment of congestive heart failure.
Following Northwest Hospital's affiliation with the UW Medicine health system, both Summit Cardiology and Western Washington Cardiology became part of the UW Medicine Regional Heart Center family of providers. The UW Medicine Regional Heart Center is internationally recognized for its expert, multidisciplinary team of cardiologists, cardiothoracic surgeons and other highly trained clinicians, and its ability to perform even the most advanced and complex cardiac procedures.
For more information on Western Washington Cardiology, visit www.westernwashingtoncardiology.com or call (425) 225-2700.