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A little voice inside him said, ‘You’re having a heart attack’

Todd Toerpe is so grateful to the cardiac rehab staff at Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital that he presented them all with an early Christmas present: four cases of specially-labeled water.


Water and Accessories Outlet, Inc., Toerpe’s water bottling plant in Joliet, donated the cases. The bottles featured a label depicting Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital and the words, “Cardiac Rehab: Heart Care from the Heart.” Toerpe, a 53-year-old Bolingbrook resident, also brought an additional case to the physical therapy department because of its proximity to the cardiac rehab area.


“The entire staff worked hard to keep me going,” said Toerpe, who was treated for a heart attack at Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital in May 2009. “There’s real camaraderie here.”


It’s not the first time Toerpe visited the hospital with a thankful heart and gifts to prove it. Last year, he bought 10 jars, filled with red and green holiday M&M candies, and presented them to the emergency department staff.


Toerpe’s heart attack was years in the making. His doctor had advised Toerpe to lose weight, exercise, quit smoking, change his diet and lower his cholesterol, but Toerpe ignored him. Fast food is one of life’s greatest conveniences and Toerpe was not going to give it up. “I’m a guy,” he said, “and I don’t like pills.”


One night, Toerpe sat down on his bed to set his alarm clock and began sweating hard. A little voice inside him said, “You are having a heart attack.” But after walking around the house, the symptoms subsided and Toerpe fell asleep. That’s the last thing he remembers before his 25-year-old son woke him the next morning. Toerpe’s symptoms soon returned.


“I started having trouble breathing,” Toerpe said. “I had chest tightness and pain in my shoulder. I was just hanging on to the sink when my wife Lisa, who works nights, came home. I told her, ‘I think I’m having trouble.’”


Toerpe praised the quality care received, especially from cardiologist Dr. James McMahon, at Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital. Toerpe remained hospitalized for 2 ½ days and ultimately received three stents. He has since implemented many changes to his lifestyle. Although he still eats at fast food restaurants, he now orders salads instead of hamburgers. His office has a special coffee pot for his decaffeinated coffee. He learned how to modify his diet through the nutrition classes offered by the hospital’s cardiac rehab department.


After his insurance-covered cardio therapy ended, Toerpe continued working out at Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital, electing to pay a modest out-of-pocket fee. “I like it because I’m hooked up to the monitors,” Toerpe said, “and someone’s there to tell me if I’m working out too hard or not enough.”


Toerpe also enjoys the fellowship of the other clients and the staff. “If one of us is having trouble sleeping, someone in the group might suggest red wine. Then one of the staff will add, ‘Make sure it’s just one glass.’”