Success Story

Robert Beussman

Healing my heart in New Ulm

As the mayor of New Ulm, Minnesota, Bob Beussman plays an important role in the success of Hearts Beat Back: the Heart of New Ulm project. His own experience has significantly increased his enthusiasm for the project. Read his story below.

The first sign of trouble came one morning in the early 1990s when I woke with a “window shade” in my right eye. That led to an eye appointment, which led to a visit to a clinic in Minneapolis, which led me to the Minneapolis Heart Institute. It was determined that a piece of cholesterol had broken free and lodged itself in my right eye, so I needed to undergo surgery to clean out carotid artery on my right side. I’m lucky that the cholesterol went to my eye and not into my brain.

At a follow-up appointment after my surgery, my doctor asked how much I smoked. I answered “A pack will last me up to a week.” He replied, “That’s all? Then keep on smoking,” and paused as my wife gave a gasp of disbelief. The doctor then finished his statement with a sobering wake-up call: “Keep smoking, and you’ll be in a nursing home within six months.”

After my surgery, I quit smoking, however, the addiction monkey never seems to leave. During this time it was discovered that I had Type 2 diabetes, and I would also often experience discomfort from acid reflux.

Although I felt relatively good at that time, I would later have trouble with slight chest pains after eating an evening meal and then walking up a flight of stairs. This pain usually went away quickly. But late on May 6, 2009, I woke with terrible pain in my chest. I thought the pain would go away like it had in the past, but not that night. My wife called 911, and I was transported to New Ulm Medical Center and eventually to the VA hospital in Minneapolis.

I only remember bits and pieces of the next several days. My surgery took place on May 12 – my wife’s birthday. I received a quadruple bypass, and was given a porcine valve. About a week later, I was released from ICU. I went home to New Ulm on May 22, the day after my 64th birthday.

Today, I am fully recovered. I occasionally have slight chest pains if I overly exert myself or eat too much. I have quit smoking completely, although I am still tempted at times. But I refuse to give in, because I know what it would mean for my heart and my health.

I received my bypass and valve about one year into the Hearts Beat Back: Heart of New Ulm project, and since then, I have become the project’s greatest champion. I am grateful for the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation’s efforts to educate the residents of New Ulm and communities across the country on the behaviors – such as smoking – that could cause serious heart problems like I had.

 I am asked about Hearts Beat Back often. my instant answer is: “If this program can save even just one family from going through what my family had to go through, it is worth it.”