Cardiovascular intensive care unit helps stabilize Kurt’s heart condition prior to surgery

Kurt Cosselman
Kurt Cosselman

Many hands, one heart

Kurt Cosselman never claimed to be a fitness buff, but he was active. At his job as a maintenance worker, while hunting deer or mushrooms with his sons, or taking care of the yard, the 48-year-old from Oelwein, Iowa, spent a lot of time on his feet and in motion.

When he started noticing shortness of breath a couple of years ago, he thought he was just out of shape. A few months later, when he started feeling chest pains, he would rest until they went away.

“Like a typical male, I said, ‘There’s nothing to worry about,’” Kurt says.

Then during a hunting trip in November 2016, his son got a deer.

“On my way out to help him with it, I had to stop three times to catch my breath,” Kurt says. “And we were actually walking downhill. I was like, ‘Wow, I gotta go to the doctor.’”

He did—and just in time. An EKG showed that Kurt had already had one undetected heart attack. His doctor recommended a stress test, and that revealed multiple potentially life-threatening blockages.

Kurt was sent immediately by ambulance from his community hospital to University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics. Health care providers across Iowa look to the UI Heart and Vascular Center, with its cardiovascular intensive care unit (CVICU) and multidisciplinary expertise, when their patients require the most serious heart care.

Further advanced testing at the UI revealed that Kurt was at high risk for another heart attack.

“He had a tight blockage of the left main artery,” says UI cardiothoracic surgeon Jay K. Bhama, MD. “He was not safe to go home before having surgery.”

For nearly a week, UI cardiologists and the CVICU staff helped stabilize Kurt’s cardiac condition to prepare for open-heart surgery.

“The nursing staff is so well-trained,” Kurt says. “They are the lifeline to the doctor, with all the information and orders they’re responsible for.”

Bhama performed quadruple bypass surgery that restored normal blood flow.

Now, as part of his ongoing therapy, Kurt includes physical fitness in a healthier lifestyle.

“I walk two or three miles a day, I lift weights,” he says. “I do it without even breathing hard.”

Kurt looks back on his eight-day stay in the CVICU as a huge turning point.

“I have the utmost respect for Dr. Bhama and all of his staff for saving my life,” he says. “It takes many hands to have such a wonderful CVICU, with employees who truly have a love for their patients.”