“I thought I was tired just because I was getting older. But that wasn’t it. I didn’t realize – my heart was slowly dying.”

A former professional BMX biker, 42-year-old Jamie McParland had a chronic total occlusion, or CTO. Plaque had completely blocked one of his coronary arteries for months. While the affected portion of his heart was still receiving blood through other pathways, it wasn’t enough.

CTO is common; about a quarter of patients with coronary artery disease have it. According to interventional cardiologist Jason Wollmuth, M.D., until just a few years ago it was hard to treat CTO using conventional stenting techniques. “There’s no blood flow to show where to thread the catheter wire to carry the stent,” he says.

Then, in 2012, Dr. Wollmuth learned a revolutionary technique for treating CTO. He and heart institute colleague Richard Sohn, M.D. are now two of the nation’s top practitioners. Together, they have created the only organized program in Oregon to treat the condition.

But for Jamie, a new technique wasn’t enough. “I was scared. I needed someone I could really talk to,” he says. He arranged to meet Dr. Wollmuth before the procedure. “We talked for an hour,” he says. “I felt like he would have answered my questions all day.”

“This is like my passion in life,” Dr. Wollmuth says. “It’s just the coolest thing ever.”

Jamie has quit smoking, increased his exercise, and undertaken a vegan diet. When I saw Dr. Wollmuth after my procedure, I just wanted to jump up and hug him to death,” he says. “When you have this block, you don’t realize how bad you feel.  Now I feel like I’m shooting out of a cannon.”