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  • Sarah Waara

Crossing the finish line: Brent's inspiring journey

Updated: Jan 26

Brent posing with his medal after completing the Community First Fox Cities Half Marathon in September 2023

Brent McKerchie crossed the finish line of his first half marathon with a smile consisting of pride and accomplishment beaming from his face. Just nine months prior, he was in the operating room at Ascension NE Wisconsin - St. Elizabeth Campus undergoing open heart surgery.


“I told my sister that if everything went well with my heart surgery, I would sign up and do a half marathon with her,” Brent said. “We both completed it, and it was exactly nine months and one week from my surgery. I was so, so proud of that.”


A cause for concern

After going most of life with a clean bill of health, Brent started to feel uneasy — he thought he was having a heart attack. Shortly after scheduling an immediate appointment with his primary care provider for further testing, it was discovered that he had a heart murmur.


Brent was referred to a cardiologist where it was determined that the murmur could be monitored and did not require immediate action. 


That monitoring lasted five years before it was time for further measures.


“After five years my cardiologist retired and my new physician said that it was time to go in and repair my heart valve before it progressed any further,” Brent said. “I was incredibly nervous. I was worried for my kids and my family and kept thinking about the ‘what ifs’. It was nerve-wracking.”


On December 6, 2022, Brent went in for open heart surgery. The surgery, which lasted a few hours, was done to repair his valve and ensure that he would have no further heart issues. Everything went well as Dr. Abouzelam, cardiothoracic surgeon at Ascension St. Elizabeth, and his surgical team repaired his heart. 


Within 24 hours Brent was up and walking. He stayed four more nights at Ascension St. Elizabeth before being discharged and cleared to start cardiac rehabilitation.


The road to recovery

Open heart surgery was the first step in Brent’s journey to recovery. After being discharged, he went to outpatient cardiac rehabilitation three days a week for over a month. There, he did work on the treadmill and different weight programs to help his heart become stronger and healthier. 


“My surgical team and everyone at cardiac rehab, I could tell they truly cared about me and my recovery. They didn’t push me to do too much at once and they listened to all of my thoughts and concerns. They let me go at my own pace and were incredibly accommodating,” Brent said.


As time went on, Brent felt healthier and stronger. So much so, in fact, that he signed up for that first half marathon which is now one of his proudest moments. 


Today Brent is healthy, has a yearly follow up appointment to make sure his heart is working as it should and is thankful for the care he received. 


“At my last appointment, my cardiologist said ‘Had I not known you had surgery, I would have never guessed that you had a heart condition,’” Brent said. “That just speaks volumes to what every provider at Ascension St. Elizabeth was able to do, and how well they were able to fix my heart.”

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