Expert care for Bemidji pastor

January 29, 2018

Pastor Jim Mucerino will never forget Oct. 6, 2016.

It was a Thursday, and the Bemidji Baptist Church pastor was mowing the lawn when he felt pressure in his chest. Mucerino thought maybe he was just out of shape, recalling his doctor’s yearly recommendation to eat better and exercise more.

Mucerino’s discomfort lasted through the weekend. Then on Monday evening, while putting up Christmas lights he started to get really winded. He felt pressure like a gorilla was sitting on his chest.

Mucerino, then 55 years old, was having a heart attack. As he later learned, a major artery known as the “widow maker” was completely blocked. Mucerino went to the Sanford Bemidji Heart & Vascular Center where interventional cardiologist Dr. Matthew Whitbeck placed four stents to restore blood flow.

“If we didn’t have the heart program here in Bemidji, I don’t think I would have made it,” Mucerino said. “We are really fortunate in our small town. We have a great hospital, and the heart program especially touches a lot of lives.”

Two weeks later, Mucerino started having pressure in his chest again. Another major artery was blocked, and cardiologist Dr. Jeffrey Watkins placed two more stents.

After recovering from the procedures, Mucerino started cardiac rehab, and over the next four months, made serious changes. He met with a dietitian and learned how to maintain an exercise routine.

“They did an incredible job at the cardiac rehab,” Mucerino said. “I was just really honestly impressed with how good they are with people. You can tell how much they care.”

Mucerino hasn’t missed a day of exercise. He shocks his wife and four kids by snacking on apples and oranges instead of chips and pop.

“I’ve lost 21 pounds,” Mucerino said. “I really am feeling great, and I’m so pleased with the changes I’ve made. The whole experience worked out really well for me.”

You can help protect more hearts in our region by supporting Home Is Where the Heart Is. Donors to this important campaign will help build a new heart and vascular center right here at Sanford Bemidji, ensuring the same expert and efficient care Swanson received will be available here, close to home, for generations to come.