West Bend native thankful for world-class heart care
Updated: Sep 18, 2019
Healthy Living Magazine – March 2013
Todd Nordquist knows when he has found a world-class stone, like the rare, blood-red diamond - The Rob Red - he once found for a celebrity client. But the 50-year-old rare gemological and fine art investment dealer, who lived out West half his life, never imagined he’d find world-class care for his heart at Froedtert Health St. Joseph’s Hospital in West Bend, the town where he grew up.
Todd had been treated at some of the most renowned medical centers in the country. In 1996, hospitalized in Arizona, he was diagnosed with sick sinus syndrome, an array of heart rhythm disorders that explained his history of fainting spells. Todd received the first of what would eventually be four pacemakers to date.
“I was sidetracked,” said Todd, who had always been active. “I had played A-level tennis, golf and loved to bike throughout the canal system of Phoenix.”
By 2005, Todd, then living in California, faced a life-threatening situation when he developed a rare hospital-related infection after his pacemaker failed and one of the leads broke suddenly within his chest. “It was a terrible experience,” Todd said. He had undergone three heart surgeries in three months. A small portion of his chest above his heart had to be cut away due to the severe infection that developed after the first surgery. In the end, Todd was hospitalized for a combined total of nearly 1 month between two different hospitals in the community of the Bay Area known as Silicon Valley.
When Todd moved back to West Bend a few years later, once again, he wasn’t feeling well, and the memories of his previous hospital experiences were ever-present.
Todd saw Marcie Berger, MD, Medical College of Wisconsin electrophysiologist with the Froedtert & The Medical College of Wisconsin Specialty Clinics at St. Joseph’s Hospital. The echocardiogram and chest CT (computed tomography) she ordered at the hospital in January 2011 were both abnormal; Todd had a leaky heart valve that needed monitoring.
“When she called me up later, I’ll never forget it.” Todd had already been seen by Dr. Berger a month earlier for his annual pacemaker interrogation, and became apprehensive when Dr. Berger herself took the time to call him personally nearly one month after that appointment. “At first, I didn’t understand why she was calling me,” Todd said. "She just said ‘I was going over your records. I’m just not satisfied with your valve.’ ”
Dr. Berger called in Medical College of Wisconsin cardiologist James Kleczka, MD, also at the Specialty Clinics. “Todd was having trouble breathing, had chest pain and fatigue,” Dr. Kleczka said. “The echocardiogram showed Todd’s valve was leaking and the right side of his heart was failing. He was a young guy with heart failure symptoms and right side failure. We wanted to get on top of this.”
Dr. Kleczka diagnosed Todd with severe tricuspid regurgitation, or leakage. Part of Todd’s tricuspid valve, which controls blood flow between the heart’s two right-side chambers, was missing. That allowed blood to flow dangerously backward from the lower ventricle to the upper atrium. The damage could have been caused by either a congenital condition or his previous infection in 2006, doctors said.
To get a more complete picture of Todd’s heart before surgery, Dr. Kleczka performed a cardiac catheterization at Froedtert & The Medical College of Wisconsin. In April 2011, Todd underwent an operation at Froedtert & The Medical College of Wisconsin in which his tricuspid valve was repaired and a new pacemaker system was implanted. The operation was performed by Alfred Nicolosi, MD, a Medical College of Wisconsin cardiothoracic surgeon.
Todd credits Dr. Berger’s “dogged determination” for saving his life, and he wants others to know there is hope and help.
“I honestly didn’t think I would get this kind of care here. I was overwhelmingly surprised and pleased. These people are really world-class,” Todd said. “They were astute professionals, intelligent, compassionate and empathetic. If it hadn’t been for them, I wouldn’t be alive.”
After the surgery, Todd joined the cardiac rehabilitation program at St. Joseph’s Hospital. He focused on eating right and losing weight. By spring 2012 he was ready to do even more.
“I was walking up to seven miles at the Badger Middle School track,” Todd said. “There was a time I couldn’t jog a fourth of a quarter-mile track. Now I’m jogging, doing cardio and weights. I feel fantastic.”
“The classes we teach change people’s lives,” said Mattie Egge, who leads the cardiac rehabilitation program. The program involves exercise and education and addresses heart disease’s emotional as well as physical components. Her staff is proud of how far Todd has come. “When Todd walked in here the other day, he put a big smile on all our faces,” she said.
Doctors say the right side of Todd’s heart has shrunk from its enlarged state and is now squeezing normally. Todd is being followed annually by Dr. Berger and Dr. Kleczka and continues to see his long-time primary care physician Andrew Knoernschild, MD, Froedtert Health Medical Group family medicine physician, at the Froedtert Health Germantown Clinic for regular care.