It was December 20th 2019 and I was driving with my wife when I started to experience severe chest pain. We knew there was something wrong and she drove as quickly as she could to a nearby urgent care center, where I was diagnosed with a heart attack. I was immediately sent in an ambulance to the hospital. In the ambulance, they hooked me up to an external defibrillator and I begin to better realize the potential seriousness of my heart attack. I was wheeled directly into the Cath Lab and the last thing I remember was the doctor saying that things are going to move quickly and then was sedated.
I woke up in a hospital room with my family and friends standing around me looking teary eyed. I told them I was feeling fine and the chest pain was gone. I was ready to go home. My wife smiled and said I needed to spend a little more time in the hospital for observation.
The next morning the cardiologist came into the room and let me know how serious my heart attack was. He placed two stents because I had a 100% blockage in the left anterior descending artery. Hum, wherever that means, I thought. He could tell I didn’t fully comprehend the seriousness and said it was the “widow maker” heart attack. Ok, now the truth was really settling in.
I was finally released from the hospital five days later on December 25th and felt very blessed to be alive and at home with my wife!!! I was so thankful to have the gift of life on that Christmas Day!!!
I learned from my cardiologist that I had several risk factors contributing to heart disease and my heart attack, one being my family history, which I can’t change and another being my diet, which I can change. At a minimum, he recommended the Mediterranean diet, but also said that there was some really promising research regarding heart health and coronary artery disease with a plant-based diet. This would be a change, but I was motivated to start eating healthier. We were fortunate that our friends, Joel and Jill Erickson, reached out to us and they shared their story about Joel’s heart attack, which was similar to mine. We learned from them about a plant-based diet and they provided us with information to help educate ourselves. After learning more, we wanted to pursue this way of eating. The challenge was on how to start? Again, Joel and Jill invited us to their Kickstart Your Health cooking class, which my wife attended. This set the ground work for helping us to get started with knowledge and encouragement from Joel and Jill and others that we have met on this journey.
One final note, I have lost about 50 pounds, which is just a side benefit to eating healthier. My follow-up appointments with my cardiologist have been encouraging and he is very supportive of my decision to pursue a plant-based diet. I feel great and am back to enjoying many of the activities that I did before the heart attack, like cross country skiing, spending quality time with family and friends, taking long walks outside and just being alive!!!