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Centegra's 1,000th cardiac surgery patient on the road to recovery

Doctors encourage increased cardiac awareness during Heart Month

Published: Friday, Jan. 31, 2014 1:54 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Jan. 31, 2014 10:53 p.m. CDT
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(Sarah Nader –
Janeen Jackewicz (left), a registered nurse in cardiac rehab at Centegra Health Systems, monitors Harry “Duke” Burmann’s heart Friday during his rehab appointment in McHenry. Burmann was Centegra Health System’s 1,000th cardiac surgery last October.

McHENRY – In October, Harry “Duke” Burmann was flat on a Centegra Hospital – McHenry operating table with his chest split open.

Doctors poured ice on his heart and cooled it to 9 degrees in order to stop it from beating. After grafts were sewed on and the bypasses were complete, Burmann’s heart was restarted, finishing a successful open heart surgery for the 72-year-old.

Burmann was Centegra Health System’s 1,000th cardiac surgery, and the Northwest Herald was invited to attend the milestone operation. On Friday, Burmann was at a cardiac rehab appointment and said he’s feeling better than ever.

“I feel great,” Burmann said. “I didn’t [have the surgery] to add to the years, the length of life. It’s the quality of life. I enjoy playing tennis. I enjoy being active. I’ve always been active my whole life.”

It was during a tennis match last year that Burmann first thought something might be wrong. He was getting tired much faster than he used to. It was difficult for him to breath and he was struggling just to mow the lawn.

After visiting his doctor and taking a stress test, Burmann was told one of his major arteries was 99 percent blocked. He needed to have open heart surgery.

“I was apprehensive,” he said. “I needed to winterize the boat. Winterize the house. I had things I needed to do.” But Burmann had to put life on hold for a few months. Now, as he’s coming down to his final few rehab appointments, it won’t be long until he’s back to full strength.

“He’s recovering perfectly well,” said Dr. Thomas Hinkamp, director of cardiovascular surgery at Centegra and Burmann’s surgeon. “He’s probably ahead of schedule. We’re thrilled with his recovery.”

With February being Heart Month, Hinkamp said now is a good time for people to make sure you “know your numbers” when it comes blood pressure, cholesterol, fasting blood sugar and other heart disease indicators.

“It’s a great opportunity for people to reflect on those numbers and try to better understand where they are and where they need to be,” Hinkamp said.

Most hospitals have biometric screening programs where people can get their numbers checked, and are often offered at a fairly low price, Hinkamp said.

Burmann said he’s glad his surgery is behind him, and he’s looking forward getting back on the tennis court. “[The surgery] extends your life and will add to your life experience,” he said. “If you’ve got a problem, get it fixed. Work out here, get back in shape and live ‘til the end.”

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