OPEN HEART SURGERY - THIS TIME IT'S PERSONAL - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports


As a DJ with local radio station WYTE, Ken Steckbauer meets lots of interesting folks.

His job requires him to comment on current events, tell stories and report the news. Ken's range of experiences -- from interviewing colorful personalities to monitoring the daily headlines -- left him with a cache of interesting anecdotes and a yarn for every occasion.

One matter on which Ken was uninformed, however, was the Steckbauer family doctor situation. When he experienced heart pain last year, Ken -- unsure if he had a personal physician -- alerted his wife right away. In short order, she contacted their Ministry Medical Group family doctor, who referred Ken to a Marshfield Clinic specialist on staff at Saint Joseph's Hospital. That's where the man with the gift of gab underwent an off pump, triple bypass procedure.

His surgery was one of more than 600 open heart cases performed annually by the Marshfield Clinic and Ministry Health Care heart care team, the state's largest heart care program outside of Milwaukee. Outcomes are better than national benchmarks, and in Ken's case he was discharged within two days. Ken continues outpatient care with cardiac rehabilitation at Saint Michael's Hospital in Stevens Point.

Now Ken can tell you the name of not only the Steckbauer family doctor, but also the array of heart specialists, nurses and cardiac rehabilitation professionals who've helped him regain his strength en route to a complete recovery. He counsels friends, acquaintances and listeners to know their body and listen to cues that might indicate trouble. Signs of heart attack -- including extreme tiredness, weakness, chest pain, or numbness -- should prompt a visit to the doctor or local emergency department.

"I believe everything happens for a reason," says Ken, back on the morning broadcast as he continues with his rehabilitation regimen. "This happened to me so I could make a plea to people in Central Wisconsin to know their heart disease risk factors and see their physician regularly."

Ken knows more about the regional healthcare scene than most people. As part of his work with New Radio Group, he tirelessly promoted a Children's Miracle Network Radiothon last summer that raised more than $90,000 for the purchase of healthcare equipment that benefits children.

While his position afforded him an insider's view of pediatric health care services, Ken later experienced on a more personal level how the Ministry Health Care system operates.

"I fortunately experienced the highest standard of care at each stop along the way," says Ken, who appreciated the extra effort provided by caregivers to keep him and family members fully informed.

Heart disease, the No. 1 killer of men and women, is also the most preventable healthcare condition. Be like Ken. Pay attention to the signs and symptoms.

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