Unexpected Discovery Saves Norwalk Resident
Four years ago Norwalk resident Jim Busek considered himself to be a healthy 67-year-old. He did all the right things and had an extreme level of fitness—running foot races, competing in triathlons and climbing mountains.
Then, as he was enjoying a ski trip in 2014 with friends from Monroeville, he had a conversation that would save his life.
“Out of nowhere, Ken Schafer asks me if I had heard about the free tests being done at the Cleveland Clinic for participants in a research study,” Busek said. “I checked into it and the echocardiogram I received there disclosed a bad heart valve I would have never known about otherwise.”
Busek was stunned at this news. He was referred to Dr. Patrick McGuinn of North Ohio Heart and a second echocardiogram confirmed Busek’s aortic valve was bad. Dr. McGuinn assured him that although he had a bad valve, his heart was still healthy; but they would begin to watch his condition knowing at some point the valve would need replaced.
In the meantime, Busek completed 21 physically challenging adventures in 2015 all over North America---running, biking, hiking and climbing mountains. Then, in 2016, Dr. McGuinn tested again and determined it was time to replace the valve.
For Busek, March 9, 2016, was the first time he had ever begun a hospital stay. That day he had open heart surgery at the Cleveland Clinic to replace his aortic valve and ascending aorta.
After surgery, there was a recovery process which included beginning Cardiac Rehabilitation eight weeks later.
“When I entered the Cardiac Rehabilitation program, I was the least fit person there,” Busek said.
That was eye-opening for Busek as he had been physically fit his entire adult life. But in his rehabilitation program he had to work back up to his fitness level step by step.
While the radical surgery and recovery disrupted his normal, active lifestyle, he is thankful.
“It is not an exaggeration to say that ski trip conversation with my friend saved my life,” Busek said.
There is no getting around the fact that something Ken said to me there in the Idaho mountains made it possible for me to be walking around here in 2018, enjoying sunrises and sunsets and grandchildren and sweet corn and everything else we call life. “
Busek is doing well and back to his fit lifestyle. He is enrolled in the Cardiac Rehab maintenance program at Fisher-Titus, working out two days per week for two hours to supplement his other fitness activities.
“Cardiac Rehab is a full-fledged workout with the benefit of medical supervision. I see it as a tremendous value.”
Recently, Busek was treated for atrial fibrillation (AFib), an irregular heartbeat often experienced by patients after open heart surgery. The good news is that his AFib is easily managed by his health care professionals.
Participating in Cardiac Rehab and experiencing AFib have made Busek more aware of how many people have heart problems. He now wants to be able to contribute to helping others.
His advice: “Just because you are feeling good and don’t have symptoms, don’t neglect getting your screenings. It could save your life.”
Another way the Norwalk resident hopes to raise awareness about heart disease is by serving as the honorary chairman for this year’s Fisher-Titus Healthy Hearts 5K Run/Walk and Miracle Mile on Saturday, Sept. 8.
Event participants can support heart health by competing in the 5K Run/Walk or by walking the Miracle Mile—both at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk. The non-competitive Miracle Mile participants will include survivors, families, friends and supporters. There is no fee to walk the Miracle Mile. Fundraising teams can be formed in this category.
The morning also includes a free Kids Fun Run that will take place after the 5K. Registration for the 5K is $25. Registration can be completed online at fishertitus.org/healthy-hearts.
The event raises awareness and funds to improve the cardiovascular health of our community through heart and stroke education and prevention. The Fisher-Titus Heart Fund also supports hospital programs and patients by providing scales for congestive heart failure patients and assisting with costs associated with cardiac rehabilitation for those who cannot afford it.
“Come out and have some fun with us,” Busek said. “Together maybe we can save some lives.”
About Healthy Hearts
5K Run/Walk Miracle Mile Kids Fun Run
Saturday, Sept. 8
8:30 a.m. Start
7:30 a.m. Registration/Check-in
Summit Motorsports Park
1300 State Route 18, Norwalk
5K Run/Walk Registration Fee is $25
For more information and to pre-register: fishertitus.org/healthy-hearts