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Two Heart Attacks in Two Days | How Altru Helped Save Jim Karley’s Life
Heart HealthPatient Stories

Two Heart Attacks in Two Days | How Altru Helped Save Jim Karley’s Life

February 02, 2023

In January 2008, Jim Karley started having chest pain in his office at the Johnstown Bean company. He decided to consult with Dr. Casey Ryan.

“It started as an off-and-on feeling of persistent pressure accompanied by a strange feeling in my left arm,” said Jim Karley. “I had meetings in Fargo for the annual bean convention that upcoming weekend, so I thought I had better get checked out.”

After receiving the news that all looked fine, Jim decided to attend the bean meetings with his wife Denise.

He later figured he had indigestion and decided to take an Alka Seltzer and some Asprin. He remembers waking up that night, which was two days after his previous episode, around midnight and was pacing around the kitchen. It was then that he decided to seek medical attention.

“We are 30 miles from the hospital, so I knew that I had to go then,” said Jim.

His wife Denise drove him to the emergency room at Altru in Grand Forks. The doctor ordered a blood test immediately and continued to interview him about his symptoms. He remembers the moment when things changed.

“You are having a heart attack right now and had one about 48 hours ago,” the doctor said.

Jim was immediately treated for a heart attack and had a stent placed. Jim is not alone. Someone suffers from a heart attack in the United States every 40 seconds, according to the Centers for Disease Control, around 805,000 people each year.

Jim, and his care team, think consistently good habits, like exercising regularly, may have made the difference between life and death.

A Familiar Feeling

Jim Karley holding a drawing of a heart.

More than a decade later, Jim was returning from a trip to Florida when he started to feel a familiar sensation in his chest. He knew he couldn’t wait to get checked out.

After failing his stress test, he was scheduled for an angiogram where they discovered that the stent from 11 years ago was now becoming blocked. Dr. Bjorgaard discussed bypass surgery with him.

“He was quite easy to talk to and explained things in a way that a farmer can understand – he drew me a picture,” said Jim. “In fact, I still have it years later!”

Dr. Bjorgaard wanted to schedule Jim for surgery for the next day.

“I explained that I am a farmer and I had not had a chance yet to plant my beans,” Jim said.

“How lucky do you feel?” followed by “how long do you need?” were Dr. Bjorgaard’s responses.

“I asked for three weeks and he reluctantly agreed,” said Jim. “We finished planting beans on June 10, and I had my triple bypass surgery on June 11.”

Feeling Fine

Today, Jim is still feeling good. He still avoids broccoli stating, “last time I ate broccoli I had a heart attack.”

He does eat more beans.

“Beans are included in our diet about three to four times per week,” explains Jim. “We eat far less red meat than before.”

He also credits his physical activity routine for saving his life. Jim says having a friend to exercise with helps keep him accountable.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends aiming for at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity (or an equal combination of both), each week.

The AHA also recommends we eat a healthy diet pattern that emphasizes a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, such as beans (legumes), liquid non-tropical vegetable oils, minimally processed foods, limited added sugars, limited added salt and limited or no alcohol intake.

If you are concerned about your cardiovascular health, schedule a heart and vascular screening by using MyChart or call Altru’s Heart and Vascular Center at 701.780.6236.

This year, Altru Health Foundation will be raising money for our cardiac department during Giving Hearts Day on February 9. If you would like to support Altru’s cardiac department, schedule your donation today on the Giving Hearts Day Website.

Here are some other ways you can support:

  • In honor of Giving Hearts Day and Jim’s connection to Altru’s cardiology department, Jim’s daughter Jessica Rerick, will be donating $5 for every bag of bean soup sold at Midtown Marketplace from February 1 - February 14, 2023. Send a gift of bean soup to your favorite valentine.
  • Also, on February 9, visit Bully Brew Coffee on Columbia Road in Grand Forks! The Altru Health Foundation and cardiac teams will be there. Each cup of coffee sold will help us reach the goal of selling 250 cups of coffee.
  • Yorhom Medical Essentials is matching all donations on Giving Hearts Day up to $10,000.
  • Power Plate Meals in Grand Forks is offering customers the option to round up their total on Giving Hearts Day (February 9) to donate to Altru's cardiology department.

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