Emporia Gazette, February 10, 2024. Kent Schnakenburg, speaks with Ashley Walker of the Emporia Gazette about his experience with AFIB and Newman Regional Health

The bright red Team Schnak t-shirts worn by the staff at Newman Regional Health are a fitting reminder of the power of teamwork when it comes to patient care.
And teamwork is just what it has taken from the moment Kent Schnakenberg walked into the hospital last August for a routine physical with his primary care physician, to where he is today, working hard to get his heart back in shape in the cardiac rehab department.

Watch the full interview between Ashley Walker and Kent Schnakenberg

Kent may be best known for his tireless commitment to raising awareness and funds for juvenile diabetes through Team Schnak Cycling. Inspired by his niece, Michelle, who was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes when she was 13 years old, since 2014 he has traveled around the country cycling thousands of miles, speaking to hundreds and hundreds of kids and raising over $750,000 for T1D research. At 68 years old, by all accounts, Kent is a picture of health.

But last summer he felt like something wasn’t quite right.

“I had noticed I was going up and down stairs and I’d kind of get out of breath,” he said. “And for me, because I was still cycling, it was a concern.”
With a family history of heart disease, despite being in great physical shape, Kent knew what this symptom could mean.
He thought a stress test might be a good idea and asked to have one scheduled at his upcoming annual physical with his primary care physician, Dr. Ryan LaSota.
It was 11:30 in the morning on August 16 when he received the news. Sure enough, his heart was in trouble. He was in A-Fib and had three significant arterial blockages. A testament to the seamless coordination between departments, by 2 p.m. that same day he was having a heart catheterization and stent placement, just steps away from where he had learned of his diagnosis.

It was a little overwhelming to process all that was happening at the time, he recalls. He thought it was just coming in for a few tests, not a heart catherization .
“I didn’t even know what AFib meant….my mind was racing.”
But thanks to a caring, compassionate and professional cardiology staff who answered his questions and explained what was happening every step of the way, his concerns quickly dissipated.
Within minutes of his diagnosis Dr. Michael Lloyd, his cardiologist, was by his side.
“He was extremely professional,” Kent recalls. “He could tell I was concerned but he kept me calm and just said, ‘This is what we need to do.’”
For peace of mind, before going into the cath lab Kent remembers asking Dr. Lloyd if this was something he really felt confident doing.
“I just need to ask you: ‘Is this something you can handle’?” he asked the doctor.
“He said, ‘Kent, I’ve been doing this for 30 years. I do several of these a week in Emporia. I trust my team and if we can’t fix it we will send you somewhere that can.’”
“That’s all I needed to hear,” Kent recalls. “He’s not going to do something he’s not comfortable doing.”
Not long after that Kent woke up in post-op and once again his doctor was right there by is side, a welcomed and comforting sight after a serious heart procedure.
“Dr. Lloyd was standing right there by my bedside and said, “We got it fixed. We put in three stents, everything looks good and your heart is working extremely well right now.’”
A cardioversion was scheduled at a later date to treat the A-Fib, but Kent was sent home the next day feeling great.

A stent is a wire mesh tube that is inserted to help open the artery and allow blood to flow freely

Kent is now in the middle of 36 sessions of rehab at NRH, something he has come to look forward to and enjoys very much. Three times a week he attends a session with a group of other patients who are also working on making their hearts stronger.
“It’s like going to coffee club with a bunch of people who have heart issues,” he said, chuckling. “I enjoy it so much I’m going to try to find a way to stay on, even when I am done.”
Throughout the entire experience, from diagnosis to treatment, Kent remembers how many of his friends were suddenly “heart experts,” offering advice about where to go for treatment and what to do; and everyone had their own ideas. But he remembers one piece of advice that especially resonated with him: “It doesn’t really matter where you are; you just need to feel comfortable with your doctor and your hospital staff.”
And Kent certainly was and he couldn’t agree more. From that first day in the radiology department when the blockages were found to his weekly sessions in rehab, Kent has had full confidence in the staff and physicians at Newman Regional Health. And being treated in his
hometown with familiar faces at the hospital taking care of him week after week, the whole experience just felt right to him.
“I knew these people would take care of me… my experience couldn’t have been any better.”
Kent is thankful for what his team at Newman Regional Health did to literally save his life. After all, there is still cycling to do for Team Schnak; and he needs a strong and healthy heart to do it.

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