Heart Disease: Living Up to the Gift of Life

Denying my symptoms almost resulted in a very negative outcome.

Heart Disease

Don Holmes

By Don Holmes, Personal Care Management Specialist, MedCost

December 9th is a date that holds special meaning for me. Ten years ago, I wasn’t sure I would see December 10th.

In the fall of 2007, I began to notice some occasional, uncomfortable heaviness in my chest, especially during periods of exertion. I initially attributed it to pushing a little too hard, or soreness from a previous workout.

I worked out between three to four times weekly at the YMCA. My routine usually included a 35-minute vigorous jog on the treadmill. On alternate days I lifted weights.

One afternoon after work, I went to the Y to get in an additional workout. Within 5 minutes on the treadmill, I knew something was different. Something was very wrong.

Denying the Symptoms

The heaviness in my chest began much more quickly. It was so painful that I had to stop. As a precaution, I asked the weight room attendants to check my blood pressure. The blood pressure reading was off the charts!

We waited several minutes and took my blood pressure again. It was still in the danger zone.

The attendants said I needed an ambulance, but I insisted on driving home. I told them I would see my doctor the next day. That night the pain lingered as I tried to fall asleep.

The next morning when I arrived at work, I called my doctor’s office and told the nurse what had happened. I gave her the blood pressure readings. She calmly but firmly said: “I want you to hang up immediately and dial 911. You must go to the hospital now.”

It Was Heart Disease

How could I be fit enough to work out frequently and still have this happen? I immediately went to the hospital. A heart catheterization revealed major blockages in the front and back of my heart. Doctors performed a quintuple bypass operation on me.

Heart DiseaseI didn’t realize it, but I had been in denial. In the hospital before surgery, I stared at the legal documents I was about to sign. I had to face reality.

Open heart surgery. I might not come through the operation.

I was extremely fortunate. I didn’t experience a heart attack, but it was imminent. Thankfully, the heart muscle was fine and there was no damage. But I had to make some significant lifestyle changes.

I Had to Face Reality

I gave up soft drinks, desserts and fried foods. Every day was a battle. I cut back on the carbs that were elevating my triglycerides and blocking my arteries. Potatoes, rice, breads—these were the foods I loved.

Heart DiseaseBut I had to face reality. I wanted to be around for more than one tomorrow.

I studied a lot of articles at the American Heart Association website, on how to improve my overall health and make better food choices. Their suggested workout routines were helpful, too.

These past 10 years, working at a health care administration company has reinforced my desire to live healthier. I’ve lost 20 pounds. I still work out 5 days a week, doing weights and cardio.

Living Up to the Gift of Life

Heart Disease

“Pooches on Parade” at Heart Walk

This November 11, my company is partnering with Wake Forest Baptist HealthNovant Health, Cook Medical and many others* to sponsor the Winston-Salem Heart & Stroke Walk. The “Pooches on Parade,” special honoring of heart disease survivors and veterans, live band and healthy food trucks make this a really fun morning.

Best of all, every person has a chance to walk one, two or four miles to strengthen your heart.

Activities begin at 8:30 am at Bailey Park downtown in Wake Forest Innovation Quarter.

I’ve lost several friends to heart issues. So it’s always on my mind to make good choices.

God has blessed me this past 10 years. I want to live up to the gift of life.

 

*Allegacy Federal Credit Union, BB&T, Corning, Dixon Hughes, Hanesbrands Inc., Inmar, Kimpton, Piedmont Federal Savings Bank, Stimmel, Truliant Federal Credit Union, Wake Forest Innovation Quarter, Winston-Salem Journal, 99.5 WMAG, WXII-12 and other sponsors.