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A Classic Survivor

Myron Rau steps off his elliptical machine, having just finished his morning workout.

Staying fit has been part of the lobbyist’s routine for more than half of his life, beginning during his 26 years in the South Dakota Highway Patrol. His 5-foot-eight, 160 pound muscular body shows the benefits of his exercise routine, running, weight training or pushing himself to perform on exercise machines daily.

So when the 58-year-old Sioux Falls man clipped out an article a couple of years ago about a panel of heart and vascular screening tests, he never thought that he’d be diagnosed with a problem. He was just too healthy.

“I saw it as another thing to add to my check list, something to prove that I was in good shape,” Myron said. “I exercise like an 18-year-old, there was no way I was going to have heart problems.”

Checking it out

In fact, Myron put off the tests for a year. As the director of the South Dakota Auto Dealers and South Dakota Trucking Association, he spends much of the legislative season in Pierre, promoting legislation or testifying in front of state governmental leaders. In 2009, he cut out an article about Sanford’s heart screening program, but the clipping quickly got covered by other items on his desk during a busy session.

The next year, he found the clipping once again on his desk and decided to schedule an appointment. The results were not what he expected. A coronary calcium scan, a special X-ray test that looks for plaque build-up on the walls of the arteries, showed that he could be at serious danger of heart attack.

Myron was so surprised that he even argued with the nurse who spoke to him about the results, only agreeing to a further appointment with a heart specialist when she insisted.

“She told me that she couldn’t let me out of the building until I had made an appointment,” he says, with a wide smile.

A serious conversation

When Myron met with Dr. Scott Pham, he underwent several tests, including an angiogram that showed his arteries had four blockages. The cardiologist had some frank conversations with Myron, convincing him that he needed to take his heart problems seriously.

“He suggested that I tell my wife where I run everyday, because otherwise I could be one of those guys who just drop over dead,” Myron says. “I’d be out there feeling the pain and then I’d just be gone.”

In January 2010, Myron had bypass surgery. When the Sioux Falls man consulted with cardiovascular surgeon Dr. John VanderWoude Jr., he had no hesitation about moving forward to fix the problem, he said.

After a lifetime of healthy living, Myron wanted a chance to survive. And the bypass would allow him a way to clear the blockages before he did any damage to his heart.

“This was my first surgery ever, but if you have to go in for surgery, you might as well make it a big one,” he said.

Not surprisingly, Myron’s recovery went well. He followed his doctors’ orders, replacing his daily run with walking and holding off on lifting weights until he had the official go-ahead. Getting back into his regular exercise pattern was important, he said.

“I don’t exercise because I enjoy it,” Myron says, after his workout. “I do it for my health.”

Back in the game

In fact, he returned to his office in Pierre a few weeks after the bypass to do his lobbying during the legislative session. He relied on staff members to drive him and was mindful of his workload and schedule, but grateful to be at work and alive.

Legislators, who knew of his commitment to exercise and health, said that his surgery was a wake-up call to take care of their own hearts. One man joked with him that his lifestyle must have been too healthy.

“He told me I needed to quit running, pick up smoking and drinking,” he says, laughing.

Myron says he’s advised family members, friends and colleagues to take advantage of cardiac screening to help protect their own health. He’s happy to be a living example of how screening can save a life, he says.

“I’m here today because of this test,” Myron said. “I’m a classic survivor.”

Posted Date: February 2012