Coffee shop reopens just months after blood clot nearly killed owner Over the last dozen years, Dave Nichtern worked long hours each week whipping together pizzas and sandwiches and brewing up coffee and lattes at his shop, Dave’s Doo Wop Coffee Shop, in downtown Starbuck. However, the doors at the coffee shop were closed for several months after Nichtern suffered a pulmonary embolism last September. Doctors say it’s rare that someone would survive it, much less work his way back to a normal life. Today, Dave is back, and Dave’s Place is once again open for business. What happened On Sept. 26, 2010, Dave and his wife, Gloria, has just arrived at his dad’s house in Willmar to do some cleaning. The last thing Dave said he remembers was carrying a vacuum cleaner into the house and being out of breath. He couldn’t get a word out and he dropped to one knee.
While Gloria’s sister called 911, Gloria said she panicked. She didn’t know what to do. Dave lay on the floor and expelled one last breath. Gloria said she was hysterical and thought Dave was having a heart attack, so she pounded on his chest. As Dave’s skin started to turn an ashy-grey color, Gloria went outside to tell her sister that Dave was gone. But while she was outside, Dave revitalized. Doctors later told Gloria that she had likely saved her husband’s life – when she pounded on his chest, the force broke a blood clot free which had lodged in his lung. “He’s a very lucky man. He’s a miracle,” Gloria said. “He has come so far… you just can’t imagine.” “I think it’s the other way around – she’s the miracle,” Dave said. “I wouldn’t be here were it not for you,” he said to his wife. Recovery begins Dave was transferred from the Willmar hospital to Hennepin County Medical Center where, shortly after arriving, he suffered a stroke. “He had lost movement on his right side and his words were slurred. He would look at things, but he just couldn’t figure it out,” Gloria explained. “He was critical for a few days and that’s when they put the filter in.” Doctors inserted a blood clot buster and filter into one of Dave’s main arteries. “The doctors at HCMC couldn’t believe he was good enough to go home,” said Gloria. “Teams of doctors would come into his room and say, ‘Is this the pulmonary embolism guy?’” Therapy begins In mid-October, Dave was moved to a Fargo hospital where he spent two and a half weeks working through physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy for six hours each day. Dave’s therapists tailored his sessions to his job – they had him go through the steps of making a pizza and making coffee. “Sometimes I’d forget to add water when making coffee, or I didn’t know how long to bake a pizza,” Dave said. “I never thought I’d forget those things.” What caused the blood clot? Doctors told the Nichterns they may never know. Dave said he was a pretty healthy person – he’d never been to a hospital before and rarely visited a doctor. However, doctors did say it’s likely Dave’s family has a genetic disorder that causes clots. Dave’s mother died of a pulmonary embolism in 1996, his sister had a blood clot, and the Nichtern’s son, Chris, recently had a clot, as well. Every day, Dave will now have to inject himself with Lovenox blood thinner shots – they’re about $100 per shot. He may have to continue with the injections for the rest of his life, but doctors said they’ll reassess his situation after a year. Reflection After returning home, there was more adjusting to do. “It’s been hard,” said Dave last December. “It’s difficult having to depend on [Gloria] for things I used to do.” “I think we could look at what happened two ways: one is ‘Oh, poor us, this has all changed for us;’ or two is ‘We are really so very lucky,’” said Gloria. She turned to her husband and added, “Your attitude through all of this has been really good, you’ve been so positive. I just look at how fortunate we are and not what we’ve lost, but what we’ve got.” “We appreciate our time together more than before. It could have been over like that,” Dave said with a snap of his fingers. He added, “My dad had ALS and he always said, ‘I can lay around and be upset, or I can make the most of it.’ I think that’s what I’ll always remember from him.” Faith The Nichterns also credit their faith for getting them through the situation. “I know there’s a higher being,” Gloria said. “When Dave was at HCMC there was a huge lighted cross on a church right outside his window in the ICU, and when we moved to another room, we saw that cross again. And when we moved to Fargo, there was another church cross outside his window there. “That’s not coincidence,” she said. “I knew we weren’t going through this alone.” Dave said he very much felt the power of prayer through his recovery. “You just feel it,” he said. “You hear other people talk about it, but to experience it was unbelievable.” Back in Business Nichtern reopened the Doo Wop Coffee Shop in January, returning to work four months after the nearly fatal blood clot. Nichtern started slow, open four hours a day. As he feels more comfortable, the hours will increase. “I’ve got to take it easy for a while,” he said. “We’ll start slowly and take it from there. That’s about enough for now.” His first day open was a big day for Dave and a busy day for Dave’s Place. His signature recipe, oriental chicken salad, was a sellout. “It sold out right away, I had to make more,” he said. “For being the slowest time of the year business has been pretty good.” He added that now is probably a good time for him to get back into the business. The winter months are slower with so many people headed south to avoid the cold weather. The slower pace will be good for him at the start. “The support from people has been great,” he said. This article was a combination of two articles, one written by Amy Chaffins and one by John Stone, staff of the Starbuck Times