Facing severe heart failure, 72-year-old makes amazing turnaround

Chuck Yoakum really loves two things in his retirement: substitute teaching and golfing. But both come to an abrupt halt when the 72-year-old suddenly faced severe heart failure. 

Multiple blockages landed him in the ICU at Ascension Providence Hospital Rochester for eight weeks. While there, his kidneys and lungs started to fail. 

"He kind of went into multi-organ failure, all from the heart no longer squeezing because now there's blood not really getting anywhere," explains his cardiologist, Dr. Sindu Koshy. 

But Chuck was determined, and with a lot of medical intervention, he made an amazing turnaround.

Part of his recovery means a lot of cardiac rehab as he slowly works to rebuild his strength. 

"When he came to my office he was wheelchair-bound, not sure if he was going to walk again with his only goal being he wanted to be able to swing a golf club before the season was over. And now when I see him in cardiac rehab, he is walking on the treadmill at a quick pace and he's able to have a conversation with me," Dr. Koshy says. "And -  he was able to swing a golf club."

Back in the Lake Orion classroom, Chuck feels quite lucky to be once again surrounded by these young people who continue to help his heart heal.  

"I always referred to it as 'our students' and then somewhere along the line I started saying 'my kids,'" Chuck says. 

Chuck does have an implanted defibrillator and a pacemaker to help his heartbeat regularly. 

Heart failure cannot be cured but it's treated with lifestyle changes and medical treatment. Millions of Americans like Chuck are living with heart failure.  

Symptoms of heart failure can include swelling in your lower extremities, such as your legs or your belly. Another big symptom is shortness of breath, such as when walking to the bathroom or the front door - but especially when you lie down to go to sleep. If you can't lie flat without getting short of breath, see your doctor.