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Jim Hurt, 55, of New Auburn, Wisconsin, finds satisfaction in doing a good day’s work and spending time with his family. Both of those were threatened when he learned that he needed further testing of his heart during a routine physical at Mayo Clinic Health System – Chippewa Valley in Bloomer.
Hurt has worked at a glass manufacturing company in Menomonie for 24 years, and his job requires carrying around 24 pounds of tools. He can’t deny that he often was short of breath on the job.
In addition, Hurt doesn’t have much down time at home. He is married with two children, grandchildren, a dog and 25 head of Hereford beef cattle.
“I love my life, but I do have a lot of responsibilities and people that depend on me,” says Hurt.
Further testing revealed a heart murmur, and Hurt was referred to Andrew Calvin, M.D., a cardiologist at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire. He sat down with Dr. Calvin and was given the news that he had heart disease with severe aortic valve stenosis. Dr. Calvin recommended heart surgery.
According to mayoclinic.org, aortic valve stenosis, or aortic stenosis, occurs when the heart's aortic valve narrows. This narrowing prevents the valve from opening fully, which obstructs blood flow to the rest of the body.
“In Hurt’s case, his aortic valve was becoming obstructed, making his heart work harder to pump blood through his body, weakening his heart,” says Dr. Calvin. “If left untreated, he would be faced with more serious heart problems in the years ahead.”
Hurt knew he needed to have surgery in order to maintain the lifestyle he loves — working full time, spending time with family, raising cattle and hunting. It didn’t mean that he was free from worry.
After committing to surgery, he met with Robert Wiechmann, M.D., a cardiovascular surgeon at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire. He learned that the heart surgery team would perform a minimally invasive heart valve surgery procedure.
“In most cases, we now only need to make an incision of about 2 ½ inches long, instead of a foot-long incision in the middle of the chest for a traditional valve replacement surgery,” says Dr. Wiechmann. “Because of the expertise of our heart surgery team, we can access the heart using very precise techniques to insert new valves, which translates into a smaller scar and a much shorter recovery time for our patients.”
Dr. Wiechmann gave Hurt the option to receive a mechanical or tissue valve replacement via the minimally invasive surgical procedure. Hurt prayed and researched online to get more information about his options. He chose the mechanical valve since they typically last longer and are made in the United States.
Hurt had surgery at the end of August 2016. After surgery, he stayed in the hospital for five days and, after discharge to his home, started cardiac rehabilitation in Bloomer.
“Both my wife and dog were happy to see me come home,” says Hurt. “It was a relief to get back to work with no restrictions after only eight weeks from surgery to completion of cardiac rehabilitation.”
That fall, Hurt was eager to get out into the woods during deer hunting season. He shot a nine-point buck in a swampy area and, with his new valve doing its job, was able to pull the deer out and load it in the trailer.
Hurt says that, before his surgery, it would take him many hours to get the hay out to the cattle. Now, he can put out hay in half of the time with no problem.
“Life is just all around better, my joints don’t ache as much and the color of my skin looks better,” says Hurt. “I feel like I am 40 again.”