Chad Swendseid, 56, knew he was a risk for heart disease. Both his parents had heart disease, and he had a history of high blood pressure and high cholesterol, in addition to having diabetes.
“I had noticed I was getting a little bit winded, but I thought I was just out of shape, you know?” Chad says. “I used to play hockey and do a lot of sports, so I just thought this was a part of getting older.” Still, when his wife, Lanette, 56, suggested the two of them get a heart and vascular screening at Altru, Chad thought it couldn’t hurt.
“With my folks both having heart issues, I thought it would probably be a great idea,” Chad says.
Not a Laughing Matter
At the December 2022 screening, Chad laughed with staff as they checked his cholesterol levels and performed an ultrasound of his carotid artery and CT scan of his heart.
“I’m kind of a jokester, and they all went along with it, kidding around,” Chad says. It didn’t hurt that Lanette already knew everyone there. As a cardiology nurse with 29 years of experience at Altru, Lanette knew these simple screenings could save lives. But she wasn’t expecting Chad to be next on the list. His results indicated he needed immediate follow-up. Within days, the couple met with Altru cardiologist Isaac Tea, MD, FACC, MSC.
“We were surprised he was able to see us so quickly,” Lanette says. Dr. Tea recommended that Chad get an angiogram. It was scheduled for January in Lanette’s own workplace, the Altru cardiac catheter lab.
“It’s a little weird being on the other side,” Lanette says. “Knowing what goes on in there, you can’t help but wonder if they’re going to be OK. But my colleagues treated Chad just like he was any other patient coming in. I decided that as long as I didn’t hear a code blue call, I wasn’t going to worry too much.” Although the angiogram turned into an angioplasty, Chad’s procedure went smoothly.
“They found I had a 95 percent blockage in one coronary artery and a 92 percent blockage in another,” Chad says. Chad had two stents placed in blood vessels in his heart. A stent is a special tube that keeps clogged arteries open. Immediately after the procedure, he started breathing more easily. Within a week, he was feeling better than ever.
“It was a great experience for me,” Chad says. “Not that I wish anybody would have heart issues, but the Altru cardiology team is simply phenomenal.”
Discovering a New Normal
Two months after the procedure, Chad is back to enjoying everything he loves, playing with his grandchildren, even shoveling snow (although that’s less fun).
“I feel fantastic,” Chad says. “I’ve been eating better, and I’m about to start a new exercise plan. I’ve realized that I have to continue making myself healthier so my heart disease does not progress.” As a park foreman for the City of East Grand Forks department of parks and recreation, Chad is used to physical labor, and he’s glad he is better able to handle it. So is Lanette.
“He does a lot of strenuous work, and he’s outside by himself a lot,” Lannette says. “So if something had happened—if this hadn’t been taken care of—he could have been laying there by himself. I just feel so much more relaxed now.” The Swendseid’s three daughters are also happy their dad took action about his heart, although it’s also raised a new awareness of heart disease.
“They are now more concerned and thinking about their own heart health as they age, knowing the family history and increased risk,” Lanette says. Chad hopes more people will take advantage of the Altru cardiovascular screenings.
“I hope my experience can prevent others from going through something worse,” Chad says. “It’s a great thing to do, and it’s really inexpensive.” Meanwhile, the experience of having her husband in the cardiac cath lab has reaffirmed Lanette’s commitment to providing the best nursing care possible.
“I always try to approach my work keeping in mind that every patient is someone’s parent or child or spouse, and it could just as easily be mine,” Lanette says. “I want to treat them the way I would want my loved ones to be treated. That’s how everyone at Altru approaches care. They treat you like family.”