David Schlottach of Tyler

David Schlottach of Tyler had seemed healthy. But tests at his physician’s office showed blockage in an artery, and further tests at ETMC Tyler led to cardiac catheterization and bypass surgery followed by cardiac rehabilitation. Schlottach credits the “keepers of my heart” at ETMC Tyler for putting him on the path to true heart health.

first-person-schlottach“I had no idea I had any kind of heart problems,” said Schlottach, who has been a firefighter for more than 35 years and now serves as Tyler’s assistant fire chief. “But the old saying around our firehouse is, ‘A chimney doesn’t have to fall on me for me to get the message.’ “

His message came from a cardiac surgeon who told him to quit his smoking habit and undergo heart surgery and cardiac rehabilitation. Using what he called his fireman’s mentality – “OK, here’s the problem, let’s go attack the problem” – Schlottach took the message to heart.

‘Keepers of my heart’

Today he calls the healthcare professionals on the fifth floor cardiac wing of ETMC Tyler who helped him on his journey to recovery “the keepers of my heart.” He wrote them a letter expressing his gratitude and comparing their lifesaving work to the sacrifices made by firefighters on 9/11. Here’s an excerpt:

“As a person who has spent most of his life serving others, I recognize one when I see one. All of you helped me keep my life and put me soundly on the road to a better one.

On a beautiful Tuesday morning in September of 2001, I sat in my office and watched thousands of people die in a cowardly terrorist attack. What made me sad and yet proud was the fact that 343 of my fellow firefighters made the ultimate sacrifice to save tens of thousands of people in the World Trade Center’s twin towers.

We, the members of the fire service, made a vow that day, “Never forget.” I want you to know that I will never forget you.

Accompanying the letter were “Never Forget” T-shirts commemorating the 10th anniversary of 9/11.”

Schlottach said he deeply appreciates the healthcare professionals at ETMC Tyler who looked beyond his appearance of health to see his need and offer help.

“The people I have met through this ordeal have definitely stood by me and I feel that they will stand by me from now on,” he said. “I have always equated the people who work in healthcare with the people who work in the fire service, law enforcement and education. To me it is not just a profession, it’s a calling.”

Return to the ETMC Cardiovascular Institute page.