Dean Bacher of Pequot Lakes knows how lucky he is to be alive.
At age 34, Bacher underwent the first of three heart bypass surgeries. He's also undergone angioplasty, had a pacemaker inserted into his chest to make sure his heart continues to beat properly and had a surgical procedure to remove the part of his stomach that produces cholesterol.
Bacher, who turns 65 on Sunday, is fighting back against heart disease by being an active participant in the Lakes Area Heart Walk, an annual event to raise funds for the American Heart Association held Feb. 22 at the Westgate Mall in Brainerd/Baxter.
Bacher is the 2003 honorary chair of the Feb. 22 event. Last year Bacher raised $1,700 for the Heart Walk and was the top individual fund-raiser. He and his wife, Sandy, are co-leading a team from TDS Telecom at the Heart Walk.
Last year Bacher put more than 800 miles on his car as he traveled to various area businesses to request donations for the American Heart Association.
Bacher's father died at age 48, more than likely of a heart attack, said Bacher, but it's unclear why he unexpectedly died. His two brothers and mother all have undergone open heart surgeries.
Bacher said he now worries about his sons, Eric, 32, and Scott, 29, inheriting heart disease.
"Because of Dean having it they both know they have to go to the doctor and get watched for it," said Sandy Bacher.
JoLeta Goble-Buss, chair of the Lakes Area Heart Walk, said their goal is to raise $60,000 at the Feb. 22 event, about $6,000 more than last year. Last year 345 walkers participated in the walk. This year Goble-Buss is hoping for 500 participants.
Registration for the Lakes Area Heart Walk begins at 7:30 a.m. while the actual walk inside the mall starts at 8:30 a.m. and will run until 10 a.m. Walkers can walk all or a portion of the time.
Bacher said what motivates him to participate in the Lakes Area Heart Walk are the children affected by heart disease, those who inherit heart disease and those who lose their parents early as a result of heart attacks or strokes.
Bacher has had to make a lot of changes in his lifestyle since his first bypass in 1971, but he said it has helped him appreciate each day of his life.
"I stop now and smell the roses. I stop and look at life," he said. "I don't let this control my life."
For more information about the Lakes Area Heart Walk, contact Goble-Buss at (218) 568-2478 or via e-mail at email@example.com.
The Feb. 22 Heart Walk is sponsored by the Minneapolis Heart Institute, St. Joseph's Medical Center, Cuyuna Regional Medical Center, Home Depot, Grand Casino Mille Lacs with additional support by other area businesses.
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