Many people have experienced misfortunate situations resulting in something unexpectedly good later on, referred to often as “a blessing in disguise.” For Bryan Lund, from Fulda, MN, his series of misfortunes led to the greatest blessing one can ever achieve, saving his life.
Not Breathing Easy
As a chronic asthmatic, it was common for Bryan to deal with breathing problems and knowing when his lungs needed medication. In early August of 2020, Bryan started experiencing a different set of breathing problems; his usual prescription of prednisone (steroid) and Z-packs (Azithromycin, antibiotic) were not taking care of his breathing discomfort and illness like they had in the past. Suspicious of something more going on, Bryan’s primary doctor referred him for advanced specialized care. “My doctor from the Fulda clinic referred me to a Pulmonologist in Sioux Falls. There I was placed in a full-body glass tube for breathing tests and then sent home with some new and very expensive inhalers,” Brian chuckled. “Once home, I felt like they worked for the first day or maybe two, but as the weeks went on, I was finding no long-term help,” Bryan explained. Bryan’s Pulmonologist then suggested he see a Cardiologist.
The Heart of the Problem
Bryan met with a Cardiologist for testing on the function of his heart on August 25, 2020, Bryan’s 65th birthday. “Yep, turn 65, then meet your cardiologist,” Bryan laughed.
The Cardiologist discovered Bryan’s aortic valve was nearly closed, allowing almost zero blood flow, and causing his lungs not to be fed and properly oxygenated. Brian was in the early stages of heart valve failure.
As time progressed, he started slowly taking on water weight and was now dealing with an open wound on the same leg previously healed back in 2019.
“I started seeing Naomi again at the wound center in Windom for my open leg wound,” Bryan shared. Noami Bach, CNP, CWON, is a wound care provider at the Wound and Hyperbaric Healing Center located at Windom Area Health (WAH). She specializes in non-healing wounds, ostomy care and OccMed services.
Bryan was a traveling man. He continued to treat his open leg wound in Windom while traveling to Sioux Falls for multiple heart tests with his Cardiologist. During the TEE test (transesophageal echocardiogram), he ended up having a severe life-threatening allergic reaction. Bryan was in the hospital for three days, and when released on day four, he was diagnosed with COVID-19. Bryan was finding himself in a consistent back step, including additional allergy tests and CT scans.
“My wife says I have never been the easy child; she still calls me one of her kids, especially when she is mad at me,” Bryan laughs.
More Bumps Along the Way
Bryan recovered from his allergic reaction and COVID-19 but now was dealing with his insurance denying him a heart valve placement due to the amount of fluid he was retaining. Bryan had developed severe edema. His legs had expanded like tree trunks, retaining around 70 pounds of fluid. Bryan’s primary care provider sent him to Sioux Falls on November 17, 2020, in hopes of removing some of the fluid so he could be cleared for surgery.
“It was the afternoon of November 19, 2020. I was sitting on the edge of the bed around 3:00 p.m. The nurse had just checked my vitals and weight. I remember thinking, ‘Something does not feel right, I am not feeling good at all right now,’” Bryan recalled.
Bryan’s body was starting to fail. By 4:00 p.m., his heart rate was down to 20 bpm; he was tubed and rushed into surgery. Waking up three days later, Bryan had two temporary pacemakers installed and a permanent one placed three days later. On December 1, 2020, Bryan finally received his valve replacement. During the removal of one of the temporary pacemakers, however, an artery ripped, causing Bryan to need three units of blood. Bryan was now stable and ready to start his recovery.
“My situation didn’t start as an emergency but ended up being an emergency,” Bryan states. “What normally is an in and out valve placement procedure for most people become so much more complicated for me. When I arrived at Windom Area Health, I was very tender and needing healing care.”
On the Uphill Climb—Arrival at Windom Area Health
Finally, on an uphill climb, Bryan was now in search of hospital facilities that offered swing bed programs. Swing bed programs are a service that provides short-term care to patients who no longer need acute hospital care but still require daily skilled nursing or rehabilitation services before returning home.
Bryan explored swing bed options with the Sanford Heart Hospital social worker and requested to be placed in Windom. Brian was still dealing with a leg wound and enjoyed his patient/provider relationship with Noami Bach in the Wound & Hyperbaric Health Center at WAH. In addition, at that time, WAH’s COVID-19 restrictions allowed one visitor per swing bed patient, while other facilities did not. Bryan’s wife was able to visit him every day.
When Bryan first arrived at WAH, he could only take two steps away from the bed and two steps back with a walker. He was in high need of focused and consistent care to help him continue to heal.
During this time, Dr. Steven Hartberg was Bryan’s transitional care provider. “Yes, that darn Dr. Hartberg stopped in to see me every day! I recall one day being in the restroom and holding a full conversation with him. It didn’t seem to bother him or me,” Bryan chuckled. “That was a great find just getting to meet and know him.”
Bryan also recalled his first Physical Therapy appointment with Ike Pohlman. During his first six-minute walk, Bryan made a distance of 200 feet with Ike. “I thought he was trying to kill me,” Bryan laughed. “Joking aside, I know he was trying to make me better and did by challenging me every day!”
In reviewing Bryan’s case and monitoring his breathing pattern, Dr. Hartberg set up a check-in with WAH’s Respiratory Care Coordinator, Rhonda Wahl, RTF. While visiting and analyzing Bryan, Rhonda confirmed he would be a great candidate for her Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program.
On February 12, 2021, Bryan started the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program, allowing him to learn more in-depth ways to manage his breathing by learning new techniques and exercises. “Rhonda taught me a couple of breathing techniques that I found I was kind of already, but now I am doing better because she explained them. One of the things as an asthmatic is you compensate for different things. Rhonda has helped me figure out my breathing processes and how to proceed in different scenarios and environments. We also talked about my sleeping disorder and reviewed my c-pap machine use. I still have asthma attacks, but Rhonda has taught me to pull myself down faster,” Bryan shared.
Bryan graduated from the program on March 29, 2021.
Bryan continues to work healing and bettering his health. “I have come a long way and continue my wound care and physical therapy appointments, everybody at WAH. I look forward to coming here because I know I am going to have a great visit and great care,” Bryan smiled. “I get to see Dr. Hartberg in passing as well. He still stops and talks to me, treating me as if I was still one of his patients. But honestly, that is all the staff at WAH, still caring and checking in on me. When I got here, I quickly found out what a great facility WAH was, holy cow. I could not ask for a better place to be. Sanford Heart Sioux Falls got me going in the right direction again, and when I arrived at Windom, the staff didn’t skip a beat, helping me continue my healing journey! Same great quality as Sioux Falls. I recommend Windom Area Health to anybody!”
Looking Forward to a Blossoming Future
Bryan has been a native of the Fulda area for many years. You might recognize him from when he was a cook/assistant manager at The Hub in Slayton for 22 years. Or possibly from his coaching days with the Fulda school football team for 25 years. Maybe you remember hearing about his family hosting 17 exchange students over the years. Or how about teaching English as a second language to newcomers at the Adult Center in Worthington. Or maybe you have received or purchased gorgeous gladiolas from his garden sold by his grandsons. Bryan Lund might have a mechanically complicated heart, but it is always full of love and compassion.