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UW Health Raises $67,000 at Heart Walk

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With 59 team captains and 1,391 walkers, UW Health had the honor of being the top team for both participation and fundraising for the entire Heart Walk
Patient Dan White the top individual fundraiser
 
Julie and Dan WhiteMADISON - Team UW Health set records by raising $67,000 and recruiting 1,391 walkers to support the American Heart Association's Heart Walk on October 18.
 
Dan White (right, with wife Julie), a patient of UW Health's Advanced Heart Disease Program, raised $6,655 – nearly 10 percent of the team total - and became the top fundraiser for the entire Heart Walk for the second year in a row.

"I like giving to the American Heart Association because the money stays right here to support research," says Dan. "I wanted to repay what my doctors have done for me."
 
UW Health Heart Walk fundraiser Dan White and care team

Dan White (center) with his care team, Nancy Sweitzer, MD, and

Rachel Otremba (right)

Over the past five years, UW has received more than $11 million in grants funded by the American Heart Association to support cardiovascular research.

Dan asked 120 people to sponsor him for the Heart Walk, and 118 of those he asked made personal donations. "No matter who I talk to, there's always somebody who knows somebody with heart disease."
 
Dan saw his Heart Walk fundraising as an opportunity to share his story and to educate others.

Dan's diagnosis with heart disease in July of 2006 came as a big surprise to him and to everyone around him. He had trouble breathing and couldn't sleep one Friday night. Thankfully he told his mother the next morning, who told his wife, who took him to the hospital where he stayed for the weekend for tests to see if he had a heart attack.
 
Tests revealed that he hadn't had a heart attack so Dan had a stress test at 11am on Monday morning. By 2pm he found himself at UW Hospital and Clinics for additional testing. Late that afternoon, he was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy – a weakening of the heart linked to congestive heart failure. His EF function - the amount of blood that the heart pumps out with each beat – was only 12 (normal is 55) and indicated that Dan would be a candidate for a heart transplant. Dan was just 51 years old at the time.

"It really is the silent killer," says Dan. "I was active, I had no risk factors and no symptoms."
 
His wife Julie says that in hindsight Dan did seem unusually fatigued, but at the time it wasn't enough to cause any alarm. Doctors think that a case of pneumonia a year prior may have weakened Dan's heart.

Dan's job involves a great deal of heavy lifting, working around machinery and welding, and he was hesitant to undergo the recommended surgery to implant a pacemaker and defibrillator for fear of how it might affect his ability to work. He initially chose to treat his heart disease with medication and lifestyle changes, and though his heart health did improve, a year-later Dan's doctors continuously recommended surgery.

After a visit to Medtronics, the recommended pacemaker manufacturer based in Minneapolis, Dan had the confidence he needed to proceed with the surgery. Now his heart beat is regulated and monitored, and Dan says he "feels great."
 
His EF function is now 45. He is able to maintain his job with a few minor adjustments like having his colleagues help with some of the heavy lifting, and special precautions are taken with welding. Though Dan's approach to his treatment was a bit risky, Dan says he greatly appreciates his doctor's willingness to work with him to try non-invasive treatments before having surgery.

One of the most important things Dan did for his heart health was make major lifestyle changes including a low-sodium, low-fat diet and regular exercise. And these changes have been a team effort – his wife Julie is there exercising with him three to four times per week at the local health club or taking long walks around their rural home in good weather.

Together they have also changed their eating habits. As Dan says, "Sodium is the enemy!"
 
He and Julie spent a great deal of time after Dan's diagnosis at their local grocery store reading food labels, and Dan's now a walking encyclopedia about sodium content. Dan cites the obvious culprits – a bratwurst has 770 mg – but he says many people would be surprised at what other foods contained sodium. A hamburger bun, for example, can have 330 mg of salt.
 
Dan is now famous for his low-sodium but tasty tomato soup. Each year he cans 109 jars of his special recipe that he and Julie use throughout the year as the base for many other dishes. He and Julie also buy farm-fresh poultry rather than commercially packaged chicken which is often injected with sodium to improve flavor.

Though there was a learning curve at the beginning, Dan says that there is nothing they miss about their old lifestyle. The couple still enjoys eating out with family and friends regularly, but they make healthier choices and allow themselves an indulgence like steak on occasion.

Dan has a friend who recently and very unexpectedly died of a heart attack at age 53. At this point, Dan says, he'll give up the bratwurst in exchange for his life.

Date Published: 05/04/2009

News tag(s):  heartouruwhealth

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