All patched up
After heart and hip surgeries, Bartels feels like new man
It was an average afternoon at work in September 2010.
Mark Bartels was in the shop at Gothenburg Tire & Service, just as he had been nearly every day for more than 30 years.He stretched over the side into the bed of a pickup to retrieve a punctured tire when he felt a strange kind of twinge in his head.
“I thought to myself, ‘Mark, what’s going on?’”
He then realized his left arm and leg had gone numb as he attempted to carry the tire to the front of the pickup.
At he same time, the office secretary asked Bartels if he knew where another employee was.
“My mind was working,” Bartels said. “I could hear my answer correctly in my head but it didn’t coming out right.”
The jumbled mess of words and absent look on Bartels’ face signaled a call to 911.
In roughly 15 minutes that it took to get Bartels to the emergency room at Gothenburg Memorial Hospital, he had regained the feeling and strength in his left side.
Dr. Carol Shackleton determined Bartels had suffered a transient ischemic attack or TIA.
“It’s a mini-stroke,” he said.
Bartels told Shackleton he had been relatively healthy all his life aside from a couple of sports-related injuries and bouts with blood clots in his legs.
“She told me the only way a blood clot could get from my legs to my brain is through a hole in my heart,” he said.
The next morning, after an ultra-sound and electrocardiogram (EKG), a visiting doctor from the Nebraska Heart Institute determined Bartels had a hole in his heart between the two upper chambers.
“There’s no way to know for sure but they think the hole might have been there when I was born,” Bartels said.
The hole, which Bartels said looked like a thin piece of cooked spaghetti in an S shape, may have gone undetected 52 years because a thin membrane of tissue separated the chambers.
“I’ve never had any reason to believe there was anything wrong with my heart,” he said.
The specialist assured Bartels his heart could be mended with surgery.
“When he told me it was operable, I thought, ‘Well good. Let’s get this fixed.’”
Five months later, after a regimen of medications to regulate his blood, Bartels made the trip to Lincoln to the Heart Institute for surgery.
Doctors started with an echocardiogram, essentially a sonogram of the heart from the inside.
Bartels said he was a little concerned when the doctor doing the awake procedure said, “Hmmm, the hole is a little bigger than we thought.”
But despite its size, the surgeon was able to insert a vortex mesh netting between the upper chambers of Bartels’ heart using a catheter procedure through the femoral artery. Bartels was awake throughout and even watched some of the surgery on a monitor.
It took less than an hour.
“I went into surgery at noon and by 1 o’clock I was talking to people on the phone,” Bartels said. “They couldn’t believe it was me.”
After several hours of laying flat on his back, Bartels was released that evening.
“I couldn’t lift anything that was 10 pounds for a week,” he said.
Bartels returned to work part time at Gothenburg Tire a week later, working a little at a time until he had full strength back.
Another six months later, Bartels decided it was time for hip surgery.
Degeneration in the joint of his left hip left Bartels limping and in constant pain.
He said he had looked into hip replacement long before the TIA led to heart surgery.
In October, Lincoln orthopedic surgeons replaced the bad joint with a new ball and socket.
Two monthly later he was back in the shop fixing tires again.
Bartels said he feels like a new man.
“It’s taken some time to retrain my body to walk and stand the way it’s supposed to,” he said. “I’m sure looking forward to baseball this year.”
Practice will begin in a couple of months for Bartels’ 21st year with the Gothenburg Melons American Legion baseball team.
“The pain in my hip really kept me from doing much last summer,” he said. “I’m anxious to be a hands-on coach again.”
Bartels can’t say enough good things about the care he received while in Gothenburg and the opportunities the local hospital offers patients.
Visiting doctors from Lincoln diagnosed the hole in his heart and coordinated his recovery here after surgery.
Blood monitoring could be completed here rather than making several trips east, he said, and check-ups can be scheduled here.
“It’s a tremendous service our hospital provides,” he said.
And service is something Bartels is familiar with. He’s done it all of his life in the tire business.
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