What started as an anxiety attack at work quickly became something very serious. Jim Graham was just 50 years old when a blip on a stress test led to an emergency flight to Sioux Falls for an angiogram. After the procedure, the doctor came in with some sobering news.
"He says well Jim, you're going to have to have open heart surgery, you've got blockage." Said Graham.
Jim's heart was 95% blocked on the left side and required a quadruple bypass to fix. A blow not only to Jim's health, but his pride as well.
"That was the hardest thing, when I came away from there was I wasn't invincible and my family needed me, it wasn't for me not being there but who was going to take care of them?" Said Graham.
After surgery Jim went back to Aberdeen and started down the road to recovery with a trip to Avera St. Luke's Cardiac Rehab Program. The workouts and careful monitoring from nurses helped ensure Jim stayed safe while getting healthy.
"He can have his blood pressure taken, have a nurse watch him make sure he's not having symptoms and just keep an eye on him." Said Cardiac Rehab Coordinator Jeanine Severson, RN.
A 12 week program has turned into 18 years, as every Tuesday, Jim comes back to Avera St. Luke's to maintain this new and improved lifestyle.
"It's the fellowship that goes with this, it's not just the bikes and everything else, pretty soon you're walking faster and enjoying life a lot better." Said Graham.
With his 18 years in the Cardiac Rehab Program, Jim has become an inspiration for other patients looking to recover and change their own lives for the better.
"Come on Tom! Smile, you can do it!" Said Graham.
"He's so much fun and so good with the patients, if someone's having a bad day he'll try and cheer them up and they've been good for him and it's been a real good support system around here for the patients." Said Severson.
Jim is now 68 years young and his choice to get healthy has proved to be lifesaving. In Jim's case one of the four bypasses on his heart has failed, but because of his commitment to Cardiac Rehab program Jim's heart has recognized the loss and made up for it on its own.
Cardiac Rehab can be found at Avera Hospitals across the Midwest. Jim's mission now, is to encourage others to take the first step and get checked out, then make the change.
"You've got to know your body, don't be afraid, you might be afraid of the answer but if it wasn't for that I would have been one of those 51-year olds waiting for the frost and would have keeled over that's all there is too it." Said Graham.
Jim believes he's been given a second chance at life and by spending time with friends and the treadmill he's making sure his luck goes on for at least another 18 years.
"My kids love me, I've got a wife of 45 years, oh yeah, I'm one of the luckiest men on earth." Said Graham.
After 18 years going to Cardiac Rehab it isn't a chore anymore for Jim. He says it's one of the best parts of his week.
To learn more about the Avera Cardiac Rehab Program or find a location nearest to you call 877-at-avera