You can call Keith Glasshof the “comeback kid.” The 79-year-old Eau Claire resident came back from heart disease twice in one year.
Glasshof was visiting his daughter in Milwaukee when an April snowstorm dumped eight inches of snow. Glasshof shoveled the driveway and went for a walk. That’s when he says something felt a little funny.
“I didn’t feel any pain,” Glasshof says. “I just felt different across the top of my chest.”
Glasshof resolved to call his primary care physician, Dr. Randall Casper, at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire when he got home.
Back in Eau Claire, Casper scheduled a stress test. A few minutes into the test, Glasshof had trouble catching his breath. He was referred to Dr. Diana Trifa, a Mayo Clinic Health System cardiologist. She suspected Glasshof had a blockage in his arteries and ordered a coronary angiogram. During this procedure, a contrast die is injected into the arteries of the heart to look for blockages. The result confirmed Trifa’s suspicion.
“Keith had severe blockages,” Trifa says. “He was at risk of congestive heart failure or a heart attack.”
Dr. D. Fearghas O’Cochlain, a Mayo Clinic Health System interventional cardiologist, placed three stents and performed two balloon angioplasties to restore blood flow.
“After the procedure, Dr. O’Cochlain told my wife, Gretchen, ‘Your husband is a very lucky man,’” Glasshof says. “He said I had come in at a critical time.”
Glasshof was committed to making a full recovery and put his efforts into cardiac rehabilitation. After completing the two required phases of rehab, he continued with a voluntary third phase. During one of those sessions — about four months after his initial diagnosis — Glasshof experienced heart issues again but in a more dramatic fashion.
“I was on a treadmill in cardiac rehab talking to the fellow next to me when I felt funny,” Glasshof says. “My vision went snowy white, like you would see if you tuned your TV to a channel that was off the air.” He collapsed to the floor.
Two nurses working in the rehab center went into action and began performing CPR on Glasshof. Dr. Daniel Kincaid, a Mayo Clinic Health System cardiologist, rushed in to help.
“Keith was pretty lucky he was here in the clinic when he had his cardiac arrest,” Kincaid says. “All the cardiology staff are trained in CPR. Several nurses responded within a minute. They are the heroes here.”
The nurses kept Glasshof’s heart pumping with CPR until Kincaid was able to shock it back into rhythm with an automated external defibrillator. The next thing was to discover if they been quick enough to prevent brain damage.
Kincaid, who knew Glasshof from serving together for years on the hospital board of directors and the Eau Claire Police and Fire Commission, says the next thing he heard put his mind at ease.
“As I was checking for a pulse, worrying whether he was going to wake up, I heard him say, ‘Dan, is that you I hear?’” Kincaid recalls.
Diagnosing the problem
Abnormal healing at the end of one of Glasshof’s stents had caused an 80% blockage of blood flow, according to Trifa. The problem is not common, but it is one of the first things cardiologists look for if symptoms return after a procedure.
“Keith had reported feeling well during rehabilitation,” Trifa says. “But people should watch for any of the symptoms they were having before their procedure and tell their cardiologist if they return.”
Glasshof had two more stents placed to get his blood flowing freely again. He is committed to working his way through rehabilitation a second time but says he’s a better patient this time around. A pilot for more than 50 years, Glasshof hopes to fly again.
“The first time, I was in a hurry to pass phase three of a special stress test, so I could get back in the air,” Glasshof says. “I’m less intent on that this time. I enjoy coming to rehab. I’m making good progress.”
Glasshof says he can’t imagine having better people on his side than his team at Mayo Clinic Health System.
“I owe my life to a lot of people,” he says, giving nods to Casper for first recognizing there may be a problem, as well as Trifa, O’Cochlain and Kincaid, and the anticoagulation team that monitors his blood thinning medications. And, of course, the cardiac rehabilitation team that he is getting to know so well.
“I would say they’re the glue that holds the whole thing together,” Glasshof says.