NorthShore’s online source for timely health and wellness news, inspiring patient stories and tips to lead a healthy life.
Life as a beer vendor at “The Friendly Confines” is tough work, lugging cases of cold ones to satisfy thirsty fans under the hot summer sun. But for Eddie Rajczyk, it is a dream gig.
“I’ve had jobs where I had to wear a shirt and tie. I made more money, but it bored me to tears,” said Rajczyk. “I enjoy being outside and doing physical jobs. I’m a healthy guy who never got sick, and before this, I was never in the hospital.”
Out of Left Field “Before this” refers to the sudden, massive heart attack Rajczyk suffered last year—one that likely would have killed him if not for the expert care he received at NorthShore Cardiovascular Institute.
The 58-year-old from Skokie had just finished a workout at a local gym last April when he suffered intense chest pain. Driving home, he stopped at the Skokie Police Department seeking help and collapsed in the lobby. A quick-acting officer used a defibrillator on Rajczyk and he was soon in an ambulance on his way to specialized care at NorthShore.
The Emergency Department team shocked Rajczyk’s heart back into rhythm before he was rushed to the cardiac catheterization lab. Once there, Interventional Cardiologist Philip Krause, MD, cleared a fully blocked left anterior descending artery—known as the widow maker—as this kind of blockage can cause the deadliest of heart attacks.
Dodging Foul Balls With the blockage cleared, Owen L. Coon Chair of Cardiothoracic Surgery Hyde Russell, MD, implanted an advanced device called an Impella heart pump to more effectively circulate blood throughout Rajczyk’s body, allowing his weakened heart to further recover from the trauma.
Rajczyk remembers none of this. “My last recollection was watching the Cubs game on TV the night before my heart attack,” he said. “I didn’t wake up until five days later. And when I woke up, I thought I was having a nightmare. I closed my eyes and thought I’ll just open them again and it’ll be fine.”
As Rajczyk began to feel better and regain his strength, his hospitalization led to a surprising connection with another member of his NorthShore care team—Advanced Heart Failure Specialist Robert Gordon, MD.
Shared Experience “I was talking to Dr. Gordon about my work as a beer vendor at Wrigley Field, asking him when I could get back on the job,” recalled Rajczyk, “and I see this funny look on Dr. Gordon’s face. Then he says, ‘I was a beer vendor at Wrigley, too.’” Dr. Gordon had worked his way through medical school by selling beer at the ballpark.
“He’s a great doctor and a great person,” added Rajczyk “When I’d talk about my work, Dr. Gordon could totally relate! The job entails a lot of walking. During an average game, we walk about four to five miles, including steps.”
Once released from the hospital, Dr. Gordon put him on blood pressure medication and ordered a cardiac rehabilitation program. Before the end of the 2018 season, Rajczyk was back at Wrigley hawking beers.
Teamwork Counts “We kept a close eye on Eddie because I didn’t want him rushing back out there,” explained Dr. Gordon. “He’s a strong guy and recovered quickly thanks to some great follow-up support we have at the Cardiovascular Institute.” All three of Rajczyk’s cardio specialists hold academic appointments at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine.
“From the doctors and nurses to the rehab and support staff—what an incredible team!” emphasized Rajczyk. “I’m so grateful for the care I received at NorthShore that saved my life and got me back out to the ballpark.”