A grateful heart: Schnurstein relies on Sanford for care

WORTHINGTON-- When you've been battling heart disease for nearly 15 years, it's good to know a skilled medical staff is available only a few minutes from home.

Bob Schnurstein sits at his work bench in his garage Thursday afternoon in Worthington. (Jesse Trelstad/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON- When you’ve been battling heart disease for nearly 15 years, it’s good to know a skilled medical staff is available only a few minutes from home.
That’s the reality Bob Schnurstein of Worthington has come to appreciate as he engages in a daily fight for his health and life.
“I have a long history of heart issues,” the 59-year-old Schnurstein said. “My first two heart attacks occurred about 14 years ago, and the doctors put in three stents then.
“After five or so years, I started having trouble again.”
Eighteen stents later, Schnurstein is still in the game, but another health scare shook him up as recently as Labor Day weekend.
“I started having shortness of breath and chest pain - mainly those two things - around 3 or 4 in the morning, and my wife Renee drove me to the hospital emergency room,” related Schnurstein.
“As long as I’m upright, she can get me to the hospital faster than the ambulance.”
It was far from Schnurstein’s first trip to the ER of Sanford Worthington Medical Center, where he says he’s always received prompt and attentive treatment.
“Everything I remember was good, but I was out an awful lot,” he quipped. “They’re always top notch.”
He was able to walk into the ER while Renee parked the car.
“I told the receptionist I was pretty sure I was having a heart attack,” he said. “I’m already in their system, so they took me back to a room right away.”
Almost immediately, Schnurstein started drifting in and out of consciousness, although he was grateful for the pain medication that was administered to him.
“In between fading out and away, I followed what was going on, and I gathered they were going to send me to Sioux Falls,” he recounted.
With an extensive family history of heart disease and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, from which Schnurstein additionally suffers), Schnurstein wasn’t altogether surprised to find his life similarly affected.
“I try to do everything right, but there’s a lot of negative family health history pushing behind me,” said Schnurstein.
“I also have bad knees and hips, plus with the COPD I had to quit working two and a half years ago.”
Previously a welder at AGCO of Jackson, Schnurstein can no longer pick up anything weighing 10 pounds or more without experiencing extreme shortness of breath.
He still loves tinkering, and even though it’s difficult for him to make the short trek from his house to garage at times, he enjoys being at his workbench fixing household things and generally “putzing on projects” when he feels up to the task.
“You can only watch so much TV,” he joked.
Schnurstein strives to look on the bright side of his situation as much as possible - “Being optimistic is the only way I can keep going,” he said - although there are moments when it all seems difficult.
“My main Sanford doctor is Dr. Kevin Ree, and I told him once, ‘I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired,’” Schnurstein reported.
“But everyone at Sanford is doing their best to help me - they jump up and do everything they can do, and as fast as they can.
“When I had my heart attack over Labor Day, there were four or five people working on me in the ER; it was all teamwork,” he continued.
“At Sanford, everywhere you go you see that teamwork.”
Schnurstein’s wife, Renee, remains employed; he says she is supportive of him and his health conditions.
Between them, they have four children and 10 grandchildren from their first marriages.
With Thanksgiving around the bend, Schnurstein is thankful that medical intervention has given him more time to spend with his family, especially his youngest grandchildren.
“They’re just getting to know me, and I still get to do some of the ‘Grandpa’ things,” he shared.
“When I hear, ‘Grandpa, fix this,’ it’s all worth it.”
Above all, Schnurstein urges others with maladies or sudden, unexplained symptoms to not delay in seeking medical care, whether that’s at the ER or at a clinic appointment.
“Don’t just ignore the symptoms,” he warned. “If you think you’ve got a problem, get it checked out.”

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