"Don't wait to take care of yourself." - Doug Schroder
Doug Schroder ignored the warning signs. He was winded shoveling snow. He carried extra weight. His family had a history of heart problems.
So it was a surprise when he blacked out and collapsed on the gym floor at Duchesne Academy, where he teaches studio art.
He was only 41 years old.
"I only remember playing dodge ball in the gym that day," he said. "I bent down to pick up the ball and I blacked out. My face was planted on the gym floor. I had a bloody nose."
He didn't have a pulse. Someone called 911. Bruce Moore, a teacher who stood nearby, started CPR. The principal ran to get the automated external defibrillator (AED) that's now available in schools and many public places. The portable device checks the heart rhythm and sends an electric shock to the heart to try to restore a normal rhythm.
About 20 students watched helplessly as Principal Laura Hickman operated the AED, shocking him. Schroder had gone into cardiac arrest and the AED helped save his life.
"I remember waking up in the hospital," Schroder said. "I'd had a quadruple bypass." He was hospitalized about a week and started cardio rehabilitation. That was in May 2012.
"Cardiac rehab helps our patients in many ways," said Karen Hardy, RN, BSN, and supervisor of the program at Alegent Creighton Clinic Cardiac Center. Rehab helps speed and improve recovery, she said, as well as lowering risk factors for heart disease, excouraging healthy lifestyle changes and improving patients' overall health.
Rehab begins in the hospital with light exercise, then continues with a 12-week program of structured, individualized exercise. The cardiac team is made up of doctors, nurses, exercise physiologists, dietitians and smoking cessation counselors working together to help patients recover by having them invest in their own health.
Today, more than a year-and-a-half after he started his rehab, Schroder still goes to the Cardiac Center early in the morning twice a week. Hardy said that way, he can keep up his workouts and the lifestyle changes that improve not only how he feels now but ensure he'll remain healthy in the years ahead.
As part of his rehab, Schroder met with a dietitician early on to learn how to make healthy choices. He cut back on red meat. He monitored his consumption of saturated fats and fats in general. His cholesterol dropped from 220 to under 100. Doctors told him he could stop taking some of his heart and cholesterol meds. He lost 40 pounds. He feels great.
"The hardest thing about what happened is all the ‘what ifs,'" he said. What if he'd collapsed elsewhere, say, driving his car? What if the teacher who performed CPR hadn't decided at the last minute to show up in the gym? What if the principal hadn't grabbed the AED and shocked him? "It was a good wakeup call to everybody," Schroder said. "I keep thinking there has to be a reason for all that to happen."
His advice to everyone: don't wait to take care of yourself. "Why wait?" he said. "Looking at myself now and how much better I feel. I wish I'd done it sooner. Don't wait."