Jim Wiatrowski is a person who doesn’t like to sit still. Most of his energy has been directed toward projects like working on cars, helping his friends with home construction garages or basements, or clearing brush from a neighbor’s land.
So, in 2013 when Wiatrowski was helping a friend install some drywall, it took him by surprise when he needed to stop to catch his breath. Wiatrowski, who already had been monitoring his blood pressure and pulse daily, also noticed that his pulse had been dropping over time.
“The following day I went out to breakfast with a friend and he said, ‘Why don’t you go to the doctor and see what’s going on?” Wiatrowski recalled.
Wiatrowski called his family physician and was seen the same day. After an electrocardiogram, ThedaCare providers scheduled Wiatrowski to have a pacemaker placed the following day.
“If my pulse had kept going doing down, I just wonder what would have happened,” said Wiatrowski, who is now 76 and a retired draftsman for an architectural engineering firm. “Thankfully, I’m still living and able to do what I want to do. They saved my life, so that’s why I want to give back.”
In addition to continuing to help his friends with projects, Wiatrowski is now helping other people to regain their health by offering annual financial support to the ThedaCare Family of Foundations. He asked that his support be directed toward projects of the greatest need, as well as those supporting the cardiovascular program.
“The generosity we see from patients like Jim means a great deal to the ThedaCare Family of Foundations,” said Morgan Fuller, Regional Development Director with the ThedaCare Family of Foundations. “With the support, we can fund programs that can help other people in the community, particularly in areas that are meaningful to the donor. We want Jim and other thoughtful donors to know how valuable their gifts are to the community.”
One area that Wiatrowski supported with his generosity was CPR in the Park 2022. This program helps educate community members about the importance of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automated external defibrillator (AED) use, helping to improve survival rates within the region.
“In 2021, of the out-of-hospital cardiac arrests, nationally only about 40% received bystander CPR and about 10% received public AED use,” said Amanda Cottrell, Chest Pain Coordinator with ThedaCare Cardiovascular Care. “In Wisconsin, that number is much lower. There is a great need to educate the public on the importance of CPR to better survival rates within our state and region.”
Wiatrowski’s support also contributed to an MRI cardiac software upgrade. Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is considered the standard of care to diagnose certain key cardiovascular medical conditions. Wiatrowski’s support will help ThedaCare bring that diagnostic imaging into the system.
He also helped purchase an AED for the ThedaCare Child Learning Center. Because the childcare center houses up to 76 children of employees, 23 staff members, and sees dozens of parents and grandparents dropping off and picking up children daily, leaders felt there was a significant need to have access to the equipment.
“Having an AED machine housed in this location can save precious minutes in the case of cardiac arrest for one of our community members,” said Stacy Goss, Supervisor of the ThedaCare Child Learning Center.
Wiatrowski knows the value of getting help immediately and hopes that by sharing his story he will encourage other people not to delay getting the medical attention they may need.
“When I go in for something, I feel I’m always going to come out better,” he said. “The more people you can tell about the things you’ve experienced, maybe they would feel empowered to stay on top of their health.”
In 2022, Wiatrowski needed a replacement to his pacemaker, and he has also had progressive care to relieve pain in his back, and values both the ongoing efforts made by his team to maintain his health.
“I’m very impressed with ThedaCare and how they treat people,” he said. “Everyone has been courteous and knowledgeable, and I truly appreciate the care I have received.”
Heart of a Donor Series
This article is part of a planned series featuring generous donors who support the ThedaCare Family of Foundations. Donations to the ThedaCare Family of Foundations help fund projects and programs on many levels across the system. If you know a donor, or community organization, who has a connection to the ThedaCare Family of Foundations, and believe should be featured in the “Heart of a Donor” series, please email Foundations@thedacare.org.
To learn more about the ThedaCare Family of Foundations and the impact of donor support, please visit thedacare.org/Foundations.
For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health and well-being of the communities it serves in Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 600,000 residents in 17 counties and employs approximately 7,000 health care professionals. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including eight hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their unique, best lives. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts about a patient’s care. ThedaCare is proud to partner with Children’s Wisconsin and Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin health network to enhance convenient access to the most advanced levels of specialty care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care.