Having a “big heart” is usually a compliment, but for 34-year-old Mark Bedel dilated cardiomyopathy has led to years of surgeries and trials.
Mark has had six pace makers and three defibrillators since he was 19-years-old. Heart disease is genetic in Mark’s family, he said, so there is no known cause for his heart problems.
In 1996, Mark discovered that his heart rate was 30 beats per minute; The normal heart rate for an adult is approximately 65 to 75 beats per minute. Following this discovery, Mark had to have his first pacemaker.
Over the next 10 years, he would endure two surgeries to replace the battery of the pacemaker. Each surgery required two weeks of recovery.
In 2009 Mark started showing signs of an enlarged heart and had to upgrade his pacemaker to a pacemaker/defibrillator. A year later, Mark developed an infection and had to have the pacemaker/defibrillator removed, subsequently spending 12 days in the hospital.
December 2011 is when the “real issues” began, said Mark.
The pacemaker/defibrillator began shocking Mark in a “v-tach storm.” The pacemaker was doing its job, but Mark’s heart was falling back into too-fast rhythms, prompting the pacemaker to shock him 30 consecutive times. A drug was needed to steady Mark’s heart.
“I was pretty close to the hospital at the time so they could get that drug in me to get me out of that rhythm,” Mark recalled.
The episode would take a year and half off his pacemaker/defibrillator’s battery life. Mark’s doctors would suggest that Mark upgrade his pacemaker, so Bedel did so in February 2012.
Two months later, April 8, and Mark’s birthday, he received an unwanted present: more shocks.
“It was so bad I could barely move without going into rhythms,” said Mark.
Mark had an oblation performed — a surgery which allowed doctors to see where the rhythms were coming from. If doctors could locate the source, they would burn the area to keep the rhythms from occurring.
“It held for seven months,” said Mark, who added that he had been grateful for that length of time as he had been told the results of the surgery could last any length of time - long or short.
In November 2012, the rhythms returned full-force, and Mark could only lay in bed and be shocked by the mechanism keeping him alive.
Mark needed a new heart. He was not able to see his daughters or leave the hospital until after his surgery, and he communicated with his girls through Skype.
In January 2013, Mark received the heart he needed, and said his recovery is going well.
Bedel said his body could still reject the new heart, and has to be constantly monitored over the first six months. There is also a high risk of infection because of the medication needed to suppress Mark’s immune system in order to assist Mark’s body from rejecting the oxygen and the heart. There is no solid estimate on the likelihood of his body rejecting the heart because everyone is different, he said.
The last three years have been financially difficult, said Mark, partially because he’s needed time off every three to six months over the last three years to deal with his health issues.
“We do the best we can,” he said, “It’s been a struggle.”
He had been working full-time at a heating and cooling company, but was forced to try a different route financially. Currently he works part time in maintenance, but is on leave as he recovers from his heart transplant. The several months away from work to recover has furthered the financial hardship on the Bedel family.
“My family and I are so appreciative of the benefit going on,” said Mark. “And we are thankful there are people out there willing to give. It’s really a blessing.”
The Marion Township Volunteer Fire Department is donating the food, a dinner of fried chicken or tenderloin, French fries, baked beans, and applesauce, and a silent auction will be held for the benefit of Mark and his family.
The benefit will be held 4 to 8 p.m. March 23.
All donations are free will donations, and have no minimum or maximum amount required to be given.
Marion Township Volunteer Fire Department (Millhousen Volunteer Fire Department) is located at 7193 S County 250 EXPY E, Millhousen.
Questions can be directed to Amy Schoettmer at 812-651-6006, or Andy Witkemper at 812-614-1862.
Contact: Tess Rowing 812-663-3111 x7004