With scars on his chest and legs, Tom Huebner considers himself part of the nipper club – people who've had surgery.
"I will wear those scars with pride," said the Meridian Community College president, who is recovering from a heart attack he suffered on Nov. 21. "One, because I have no choice, and two, because it saved my life."
Huebner, who returned to work Monday, said he's trying to get back in the swing of his routine while still recovering from quadruple bypass surgery.
He plans to work a regular schedule, but at a slower pace depending on how he feels. The slower pace means he won't spend much time out in the community, he said.
Huebner said his heart attack happened on an otherwise normal day, until he broke out in a cold sweat. After laying down, a nursing professor took his blood pressure and blood glucose levels.
He stayed at work but still didn't feel well once he went home.
Around 3:30 a.m., Huebner said he woke up with pain on his left side, and after telling his wife he wasn't okay, they went to the hospital. He doesn't remember what happened after he arrived at the hospital, but he was there for 12 or 13 days, Huebner said.
The surgery involved a quadruple bypass in addition to two stents, Huebner said. He's still recovering and goes to cardiac rehab several times a week.
Huebner said he appreciates the care he got at Anderson Regional Medical Center during his illness, and the words of encouragement he received from the community and the staff, faculty and students at MCC.
“That really means a lot,” he said. “I had people that I have met in the community who recognize me but whom I don’t know, tell me that their churches have been praying for me. It's just overwhelming to know that we live in a community with that kind of support.”
Huebner, 54, said he has a family history of heart issues. His father and grandfather were affected by heart problems, and a week before his heart attack, his brother had one too.
“My brother just had one, what are the odds?” he said.
Huebner also credited his religious faith for getting him through the ordeal.
"I am thankful for the Lord for his mercy and grace," he said.“
As he contninues to recover, Huebner hopes his story will inspire others to take control of their health. He also plans to encourage people with heredity factors to take preventative measures, such as exercising and eating healthy.
"A good lesson was for me to watch what I eat more closely, stress and other factors that could contribute to heart problems,” he said.
Huebner doesn't know when he will return to his normal self, but hopes it's soon. The one thing he'll miss the most is playing baseball with his son, he said.
"It will be many, many months before I can baseball and play catch again, but that is okay," he said.