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Joe Dickman

Joe Dickman

Father, Coach, Salesman and Critical Care Patient at MidMichigan Medical Center-Gratiot

Mt. Pleasant, Michigan

“They were incredibly attentive. I felt honored to receive that kind of care.”

Once Struggling for Breath, Now He's Singing Their Praises

Joe Dickman of St. Louis has nothing but praise for the staff of MidMichigan Medical Center–Gratiot. “Back in January, I was a very sick man, but I couldn’t have been treated at a better place,” he said. “It is a wonderful hospital and I am very grateful for the people there and for the care I received.”

Joe, 44, is a salesman and spends a lot time on the road. “I had been fighting something for three months,” he said. “I kept feeling short of breath, especially if I was moving around. I didn’t want to see the doctor but it was getting progressively worse.”

Initially, Joe thought whatever was wrong would fade away. “I didn’t really feel ‘sick’ at first,” he said, “but eventually it got to the point where I couldn’t stand, I couldn’t sit – I just could not get comfortable. I even had to prop myself upright to sleep and I was very short of breath.”

At the time, Joe did not know that shortness of breath is one of the most common symptoms of congestive heart failure (CHF), a condition that refers to a decline in the heart's ability to pump blood efficiently. While the heart continues to pump, the blood flow out of the heart slows, causing blood to back up in the veins and fluid to build up — or congest — in tissues throughout the body. High blood pressure is the single greatest risk factor for CHF.

One morning, Joe finally decided to seek help from his family doctor. “I thought he would give me an antibiotic and send me home,” Joe said. “Instead, he told me I had congestive heart failure. He started me on oxygen there in his office and sent me to the hospital. By the time I got there, I was really struggling to breathe. My doctor had called ahead, so they were expecting me and were ready for me.”

Within minutes of his arrival at MidMichigan Medical Center–Gratiot, Joe was settled in the Critical Care Unit. “Within a few hours, they had run the necessary tests, they knew what was wrong and they were treating me,” he said. “Everyone there was just phenomenal and they worked very quickly.”

While they worked efficiently, Joe said the doctors, nurses and other experts at the Medical Center were consistently professional, patient and kind. “From the techs to the doctors to the nurses, they took their time with me,” he said.

“Every time they gave me medicine or ran a test, they explained what they were doing and why. They always asked if I had any questions. Without fail, all my questions were answered when I asked them, or they tracked down the answer and got back to me within minutes.” Many of the staff went far beyond his expectations. “They were incredibly attentive. I felt honored to receive that kind of care.”

Joe was discharged the following Monday with medications, instructions to eat a heart-healthy diet, and a portable vest-style defibrillator to wear while his cardiologist continues to monitor his recovery.

“I walked out of there feeling better than I had in months,” Joe said. “Part of the reason I got sick was that I quit taking meds for my high blood pressure. After what they did for me, I’ll follow the rules from now on.”


Congestive heart failure usually develops gradually, over many years. Talk to your doctor if you experience frequent shortness of breath, fatigue, persistent coughing or wheezing or swelling in the feet, ankles, legs or abdomen.