Young Great Falls Dad After Heart Attack: 'If You Have Concern, Get Checked'

As he skied back to the car after a day of ice climbing near Augusta, Kory Goodau watched his friends slip farther and farther away.

Kory couldn't keep up with them. His energy was flagging. The top of his lungs felt like they were on fire. 

Kory, 33, didn't know it then, but he was having a heart attack.

"It wasn't like a big pain in my chest," he said. "I just couldn't keep up with the group."

He later helped push a minivan out of the snow on the way back to Great Falls.

Kory was reluctant to seek medical help. He decided he had probably just overexerted himself, so he showered and went to bed to recover.

At 3 a.m., Kory found himself in the grip of intense chest pain.

Kory and his wife, Vanessa, had a newborn, Oliver, along with Piper, now 5, and Sophia, 6. Kory didn't want to disturb anyone, so he drank coffee in the still of the night until 5 a.m., when he woke Vanessa and drove himself to Benefis Emergency Department.

benefis rehab kory

"I said I was having chest pains, and there were six staff there instantly," Kory said. "They told me, 'Dude, you're having a heart attack.' I said, ‘No.’ I thought of someone having a heart attack grabbing their chest. I had a heart attack and then skied three miles."

Kory had quintuple bypass surgery, which includes all five of the major arteries into the heart. He has scars on his arms and legs where a Dr. Steven Bailey, a Benefis surgeon, harvested arteries for his heart.

Kory learned at Benefis that he had a genetic issue with the right side of his heart that meant his coronary arteries were child-sized and easily blocked. 

"For me, the most positive part of the experience was the staff in the ICU. They were absolutely phenomenal," he said. "They did an amazing job of making sure I had everything I needed and that I could get up and walk when I wanted." 

kory goodau benefis rehab

Dr. Shawn Kelly, Kory’s cardiologist, is helping Kory get back to his old life.

One important step in that process is taking part in Benefis Cardiac Rehabilitation, where a rehab team of cardiac nurses and an exercise physiologist guides his progress over 12 weeks.

All cardiac rehab patients work out wearing a heart monitor. For Kory, a priority is making sure he doesn't get overzealous but instead stays within a safe exertion level.

benefis rehab

He's on a 10-pound weight limit for now, which doesn't work great with a 16-pound baby. He also wants to get back to work and to recreating.

"I had a friend ask me if I'll climb again. It's not what if but when and what it looks like," he said. Kory has been upfront with his young daughters about his recovery.

"They listen. They've been good about helping their mom out," he said. "They're mostly curious."  Kory said he encourages people not to wait until they have a health crisis to seek medical help.

Looking back, he can see other moments he brushed aside that tried to warn him something was wrong with his heart. 

"If you have a concern, get yourself checked," he said. "If I could have avoided open-heart surgery, I would have, as interesting an experience as it's been."

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