Jim Ludvigsen of Kenosha is a husband, the father of three, and, for the past 18 years, a fireman with the Kenosha Fire Department. One day while he was on duty at the fire station, something unexpected happened to Jim. “For some reason, my heart started racing,” he recalled. “My heart went into a-fib out of the blue.”
A-fib is short for atrial fibrillation – a very common cardiac condition in which stray electrical signals in the heart cause it to beat erratically. Jim’s a-fib initially went away on its own, but then reappeared a couple years later. Medications helped, but after his condition worsened, Jim decided to undergo a minimally-invasive procedure to block the unwanted electric signals causing his erratic heartbeats.
During Jim’s procedure, an unforeseen complication arose when blood began leaking from an abnormally thin and previously undetected patch of tissue on Jim’s heart. Fortunately, Jim was undergoing the procedure in the catheterization lab at Froedtert Pleasant Prairie Hospital, just steps away from the operating room where cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Goya Raikar was preparing for heart surgery.
“We are just one hallway away from the cath lab,” Dr. Raikar said. “When the emergency situation arose, I rushed in there and we started doing CPR as we wheeled Jim back to our operating room.” Within minutes, Dr. Raikar and his team were able to perform open heart surgery and close the hole in Jim’s heart. After a few days recovering in the hospital, Jim went home. Today, he is back to work full time at the fire department. “We saved the life of a lifesaver who, as a first responder, has saved countless lives in the work that he does every day,” Dr. Raikar said.
“A friend of mine who is a heart surgeon told me what happened to me was very, very rare - maybe happening once every two or three years in the entire nation,” Jim said. “She also said I was lucky to be at a hospital that has what Froedtert South has: the right people, in the right place, at the right time. Other hospitals may not have those same resources available when and where they are needed in an emergency. Dr. Raikar and his team saved my life. My whole family is grateful,” Jim said.
“Because Jim was losing blood so quickly, he could not have been transported to another hospital in Milwaukee or Chicago for surgery,” Dr. Raikar said. “So, if we didn’t have all the people who make up what we call our total cardiac program at Froedtert South, Jim’s outcome could have been much different.”