HUGO, Minn. — When dairy farmer Fran Miron was recovering from triple bypass and aortic valve replacement open-heart surgery, he played a lot of card games with the grandkids, possibly orchestrated by their parents to help keep him from going outside and farming.
Miron and his wife, Mary Ann, milk 150 cows alongside two of their sons, Paul and Andrew, who are in charge of the day-to-day operations on the farm.
Miron said his grandchildren helped monitor him to make sure that he was not overdoing it.
“It was a blend of caring and bossing me around,” Miron said.
Thanks to the surgery, today Miron is feeling healthy. Instead of cutting back as he had planned to do, he is back to working long hours on the dairy farm near Hugo.
“I really haven’t felt this good for a long time,” Miron said. “I have my ambition back; I’m not as lethargic.”
The journey to open-heart surgery and Miron’s subsequent recovery started two and a half years ago when he experienced chest pain on both a Saturday and Sunday while walking to the barn. Miron had previously been diagnosed with a heart murmur, so on Monday, he called a cardiologist and set up an appointment.
“He chastised me for not dialing 911,” Miron said. “He said, ‘When you’re having chest pains, you dial 911; you don’t make an appointment.’”
That Tuesday, they discovered two partially blocked arteries and put in stints that same day. The cardiologist also noticed that Miron’s aortic valve was going to need to be replaced sometime in the next five years but was currently doing fine.
Fast-forward to the fall of 2022, and Miron began to feel unwell again. He had a lack of energy and experienced shortness of breath, but he had no chest pain.
Miron waited, and finally this past summer after first-crop hay was done, he went to his primary care doctor who sent him on to the cardiologist.
In early July, Miron met with his cardiologist and found out that his aortic valve needed to be replaced right away and that he had three blockages close to his heart.
“I kind of came home feeling like a walking time bomb,” Miron said. “I quit going out to the barn. I quit helping the boys.”
Miron was given two options for an aortic valve replacement: a bovine valve or a mechanical valve.
“I decided to go with a bovine valve, which I thought was kind of cool anyway,” Miron said. “Dairy cows have supported me and our family all our lives. ... Being dependent on a bovine valve to extend my life makes me proud as a farmer as I think about it.”
On July 21, Miron went through surgery and spent the next six days in the intensive care unit before being transferred to a regular room for one day and then being sent home.
Miron’s homecoming came with restrictions. He could not drive or ride in the front seat of a car for five weeks, and until he reached 12 weeks post-surgery, he also could not do any repetitive motions. There were also weight restrictions. For the first eight weeks, he had a 5-pound weight limit, which then was raised to 20 pounds until 12 weeks after surgery.
During his absence, Miron’s sons ran the farm without him. Unfortunately, Miron’s time away from the farm did coincide with one of their full-time employees switching to part time.
“The boys stepped up to the plate, and they really managed things and got things done,” Miron said. ... “You find out very quickly that you’re replaceable.”
Miron gives credit in his recovery to the many prayers made on his behalf.
“I was on prayer lists for quite a few different congregations,” Miron said. “There’s no question in my mind that those prayers and that faith helped me persevere through this as well.”
Miron is the county commissioner for Washington County where his farm is located. Three weeks after surgery, he began doing work for the county again. He said this was good because it gave him an outlet since he was not able to do many other things at that time.
“After lying around for a week or two, lying around gets really old,” Miron said. “You just have a deep appreciation for your health and your ability to do work or activity.”
Once he was able to drive, Miron was in the tractor chopping fourth-crop hay and corn silage. His 8-year-old grandson James came with him and helped.
“He was hooking up my wagons because he knew I shouldn’t do it,” Miron said.
Through the whole process, Miron said, he was thankful that he was dealing with heart issues and not something like cancer.
Approximately 15 weeks after surgery, Miron felt mostly back to normal.
Miron’s story was shared by several news outlets after M Health Fairview put out a press release about his surgery and recovery.
“The communication specialists from the hospital had called me, and they said (my) recovery was really pretty remarkable,” Miron said.
Miron said he was willing to do the interviews on the condition that the stories emphasized the importance of monitoring heart health symptoms and shared the benefits that animal agriculture brings to people.
The story was picked up by KSTP-TV and the Pioneer Press.
“It’s kind of neat for me to recognize that animals have provided a livelihood for our family all these years and now are extending my life and really making life as a whole good for us,” Miron said.
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