Home » Local News, Rotating Features

Retired Alpena teacher has thankful heart for care he received

Submitted by Phil Heimerl on April 16, 2018 – 12:18 amNo Comment


ALPENA, Mich. – For Jon Gunderson, a retired elementary school teacher from Alpena, last October was more than just an exciting month of fishing.

Gunderson had been out on the lakes all week catching his fill of perch when he started developing a cough and some mild respiratory symptoms.

He didn’t really think too much of it until one night when he started feeling more persistent shortness of breath and found himself unable to even sleep upright in his recliner.

The 73 year old, who retired in 2002 after 35 years of teaching, considers himself a fairly active individual. He enjoys walking, golfing, hunting and fishing, as well as going to a local wellness center two to three times a week. While he didn’t have a specific history of heart disease, he did share that he may have had a mild heart attack back around 2002. It was then that he started seeing Cardiologist Abraham Salacata, M.D. He remembers undergoing a cardiac stress test, but that the test did not reveal any areas of concern. For the next 15 years, he experienced no heart-related issues.

According to Gunderson, his home is located only about 200 yards from MidMichigan Medical Center – Alpena. In fact, he can see the Emergency Department parking lot from his window. That late October night he noticed that the parking lot was fairly empty and told his wife that he was driving over to the ER to get his respiratory cold checked out. He figured they’d prescribe an antibiotic and he’d be back home within the hour.

“The next thing I remember is the ER staff sitting me in a wheelchair and putting an oxygen mask on me,” he said. “After about an hour, my wife came over to check on me. Based on my symptoms and their assessment, the ER staff suspected that my issue was heart related and admitted me to the Medical Center.”

Over the next several days, Dr. Salacata ran a series of diagnostic tests on Gunderson and determined he needed to be transferred by ambulance to MidMichigan Medical Center in Midland for cardiac intervention. “My time in the hospital in Alpena was like a school reunion,” he said. So many wonderful people took care of me, many of which were former students of mine.”

Gunderson spent approximately two weeks in Midland after a heart cath procedure revealed two arteries on the back side of his heart were 100 percent blocked. “I was a pretty lucky fella,” he added. Over the next week, Gunderson was stabilized for surgery and received treatment for the fluid in his lungs.

“All of the staff who cared for me in Midland was absolutely wonderful,” he said. “Everyone was extremely caring and attentive to my needs. From the doctor and nurses to food service and housekeeping, the staff made a very anxious time as enjoyable as it could be. They even gave me a heart pillow which many of them signed. Additionally, my wife was able to take advantage of the Medical Center’s hospitality service and stay at a nearby hotel which offered shuttle service.”

Gunderson’s open heart surgery was performed by Cardiovascular Surgeon Robert Jones, M.D. “Dr. Jones is the best and very good at what he does,” he added. “After surgery, he and his staff stopped in to check on me frequently. I spent about a week in Midland after surgery before being discharged. The amazing thing is my post-surgical pain was really minimal. One of the most ironic parts of my story is that the week I was in Midland, Dr. Jones was performing surgery on another Alpena patient who just happened to be one of my former students.”

After returning to Alpena, Gunderson started cardiac rehabilitation at MidMichigan Medical Center – Alpena. “I recently completed Phase II of the program and graduated to Phase III, which is a supervised maintenance program,” he said. “I feel wonderful these days and I’m back to fishing and doing the things I love. The rehab staff has been very encouraging and they’ve helped me get back to my old self.”

“My advice to others is to not ignore your heart’s warning signs,” Gunderson said. “I was very lucky and I’m thankful for the great care I received. We are so fortunate to have access to a wonderful heart program here in Alpena and in Midland through MidMichigan Health.”

Those who would like more information about MidMichigan Health’s comprehensive Heart and Vascular Program may visit www.midmichigan.org/heart.

RSS feed


No comments yet.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.