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An Unlikely Candidate for Bypass Surgery

​​​​​​​​Steve Agnoli of Rhinelander was doing everything right. He worked out four times per week, being sure to get his heart rate up to his target workout range. 

Steve Agnoli of Rhinelander Steve Agnoli of Rhinelander

He looked healthy and felt well. Well, that is, except for that little twinge i​​n what he thought was a lung when he worked out or play-wrestled with his son.

“A day after feeling this, I had a physical that had already been scheduled with my doctor. He said all the numbers looked good, but asked if there was anything new,” Agnoli recalled. “So I told him, yeah, I feel something in my lung.” The doctor ordered a stress test, which showed that things were far from well. He referred Agnoli to Richard Reinhart, M.D.​, a Marshfield Clinic cardiologist, who told him there were signs of blockages in his coronary arteries.

Dr. Reinhart referred him to Ministry Saint Clare’s Hospital in Weston for a heart catheterization study. When he woke up, Cardiologist Rohit Srivastava, M.D., told him, ‘we have some decisions to make.’” Agnoli had a 99 percent blockage in one artery, a 90 percent blockage in a second artery and smaller blockages in other arteries. Agnoli and the doctors decided bypass surgery to six coronary arteries was his best long-term answer.

“He had too many blockages to stent,” said Chong Chin Lee, M.D., a cardiothoracic surgeon at Marshfield Clinic Weston Center and Ministry Saint Clare’s Hospital. The relatively subtle symptoms, not that unusual for a younger man in good condition, reminded Dr. Lee that “the heart is an amazing organ. It continues working right up until it stops.”

It was all a bit surreal for Agnoli, the Northern Region manager for Wisconsin Public Service Corp. The community-minded Agnoli, who formerly lived in Wausau, is chairman of the Board of Directors for Ministry Sacred Heart/Saint Mary’s Hospitals in Tomahawk and Rhinelander. He was accustomed to reviewing patient satisfaction and safety reports, which suddenly held more meaning for a 55-year-old man who had never been hospitalized before.

“All my physicians and the staff were great, and everything was top-notch,” said Agnoli, who didn’t let on about his leadership with Ministry Health Care. Ministry partners with Marshfield Clinic to provide heart care services throughout northern and central Wisconsin.

Just two and a half weeks after surgery, he was in cardiac rehab, and within four weeks he was back at work, part-time at first. On March 20, he was able to enjoy golfing in the earliest opening ever at the Rhinelander Country Club. He realizes he still has a genetic predisposition for heart disease, so he’s made a commitment to himself to work out five days a week.

What else has Agnoli taken away from his experience? “That you can do all the right things, but still you never know,” he said. “I just told my story at a meeting, where we always have a section on safety and wellness. I told everyone to get a physical and be a baby about it. Tell your doctors everything.”​​