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Island survivor urges Heart Walk support

By Staff | Jan 14, 2015

Islander Chuck Bergstrom says he would rather be lucky than anything else. And as luck would have it, just over ten years ago, he took himself to the doctor for what he thought was an ear infection. His life changed forever that day, when feeling “not quite right” led him to go to the doctor. Although none of the classic signs were present, Chuck was having a heart attack and was rushed to the hospital; he knew he was in trouble. Tests showed three blockages at 90 percent, and a positive MRSA (staph) test. He needed a triple-bypass operation, but had to clear the MRSA first.

“When I was told I needed open-heart surgery to save my life, everything seemed surreal,” said Bergstrom, an island realtor and business owner. “To clear the MRSA, I was put in a medically induced coma. My daughter flew in from Indiana, and my wife was by my side. Periodically the doctors would bring me out of the coma, but I don’t remember much of what was going on or discussed. I vaguely remember being wheeled down a corridor and hearing that I was going into surgery. The room was dark and very cold. A nurse told me to count backwards … and that was it.”

Not only did he survive, but the close call also changed his life.

“I do a whole lot of things differently now,” he said. “I have a health care proxy, I exercise religiously and I’ve modified my diet. I visit my cardiologist twice a year and have routine physicals. Perhaps most importantly, l’ve realized that I am not bullet-proof. I am thankful to live in a time when so many things can be ‘fixed’ if caught in time. When I look at the scar on my arm – that is where they got my ‘spare parts’ – I think of it very positively; it represents my second chance at life. Although it sounds corny, I realize that every day is a gift.”

Today, Chuck leads a much healthier lifestyle and is an advocate for the American Heart Association, sharing his story to help others take control of their own health.

“I supported the first annual Sanibel Heart Walk last year and look forward to doing it again. I am a survivor and want others to be here to enjoy life along with me,” he said.

The Heart Walk is an American Heart Association event that raises money for lifesaving research and education,

“By supporting the AHA and by focusing on my own heart health and well-being, l’ve been able to give hope to others that a healthier life, a better life, is attainable,” Bergstrom said. “I am lucky that my heart attack did not have significant long-term effects. It was a wake-up call to me about diet and exercise and lifestyle changes, one that I am grateful to be able to share with others.