Local expertise, technology and lifesaving care—with plenty of heart

Sanford Bemidji aims to become northern Minnesota’s leading cardiovascular center

Home is where the heart is. And few of us appreciate it like Jim Mucerino.

A pastor at Bemidji Baptist Church, Mucerino was mowing his lawn on a Thursday evening last October when he started feeling pressure in his sternum. By Monday night, he felt like the proverbial 800-pound gorilla was making itself comfortable on his chest.

Mucerino was having a heart attack, with a complete blockage in a major artery colloquially known as the “widowmaker.” At the Sanford Bemidji Medical Center, he was placed in the capable hands of Dr. Matthew Whitbeck, who placed four stents in the artery to restore blood flow to his heart.

“If we didn’t have the heart program here in Bemidji, I don’t think I would have made it,” says Mucerino, who’s since had two stents placed in another artery, completed cardiac rehab, and lost more than 21 pounds through improved diet and exercise.

“We are really fortunate in our small town. We have a great hospital, and the heart program especially touches a lot of lives.”

Enough lives, as it happens, that Sanford Health Foundation is aiming to take heart care to the next level in Bemidji. Every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 735,000 Americans have a heart attack—and from the moment Sanford Bemidji began offering cardiovascular care in 2011, patient volumes have outpaced projections by 25 percent or more each year.

The establishment of an on-site Sanford Heart and Vascular Center, with groundbreaking expected in fall 2018 and grand opening in fall 2019, would make Sanford Bemidji the leading cardiovascular center in northern Minnesota. The facility would attract the latest in heart and vascular medicine, experts and technology, and treat even more patients close to home rather than sending them across the state for life-saving care.

“My procedure went so smoothly, and being able to be seen and treated right here in Bemidji is just great,” says Natalie Haglund, herself a nurse at Sanford Bemidji who was successfully diagnosed and treated for a heart abnormality.

Enbridge is committed to improving quality of life in the communities near our operations and projects, including the proposed Line 3 Replacement Project through northern Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin.

In 2016, we invested more than $800,000 across the state of Minnesota in community-strengthening initiatives. And in recent months, we’ve partnered with the Sanford Health Foundation of Northern Minnesota—matching individual donations for up to $10,000 toward the foundation as it moves toward creation of the Sanford Heart and Vascular Center.

“I never hesitate to brag about Bemidji. Now I really brag about the hospital, too,” says Ron Johnson, a member of Bemidji City Council, who underwent a life-saving procedure in summer 2015 after a heart attack while competing in annual Dragon Boat Festival races on Lake Bemidji.

“If it wasn’t for the quick response at the lake, and the local care at Sanford, the outcome for me would have been very different,” says Johnson. “I’m lucky to be from Bemidji.”