A Heart Attack At 36 Nearly Killed Me, Now I’m Full of Life and Ready To Help Others Save Theirs
Today is my 2 year anniversary. An anniversary I did not expect to be celebrating.
I’m going to share a story about a heart attack I suffered at the age of 36. I was healthy, happy and in total disbelief when it occurred. Now I see this experience as my life’s purpose – I’m focused on helping others change their perspective on life, food and family. Thanks for reading.
Morning Ache, Warning Signs
I’ll never forget the morning of March 15, 2016. I woke up like most other mornings, with an unspoken “thank you GOD for giving me another amazing day”. It is a little saying that centers my day around the gratitude and appreciation I have for another day of life. What I would soon realize, is that I would be challenged with the biggest hurdle I have ever faced – a heart attack that would occur just 3 hours later.
I remember telling my wife Sahar that I had a funny feeling in my back. This wasn’t a feeling of sleeping on your shoulder wrong or too many pull ups at the gym. This was a dull but nervy pain that was pulsating in the back of my shoulder near my shoulder blade. She caught me stretching as I had just put my suit jacket on in anticipation of a morning and afternoon full of meetings. She asked “whats wrong with your shoulder?” I responded, “its nothing babe, just a funny feeling in my back”. Maybe it was good intuition, my guardian angel or knowing my families history, but I went directly to my medicine cabinet and took 2 baby aspirin and was off to work.
I stopped by my office that morning to pick up my assistant Lauren as we headed to a real estate event in Downtown Seattle that we were hosting. My intuition kicked in again as there was some numbness in my left arm. I looked over at Lauren and jokingly said, “if I have a heart attack, just jump in the drivers seat and take me to Swedish”. She giggled cautiously and I re-assured her it was likely just sleeping wrong and what felt off was likely my anxiety building over a stressful day of work.
The Toughest Decision, Trusting My Gut
As I made it to the top floor of the Madison Tower Condos in Seattle, just minutes before greeting 50 Seattle real estate agents, my warning signs got worse. During a conversation with a friend, I felt some anxiety and more numbness shooting down my left arm. I thought wow, am I having a heart attack right now or could this be a panic attack? As the symptoms progressed I starting walking in circles and desperately tried to use my phone to find “early signs of a heart attack” and “what to do when having a heart attack”. My palms were a little sweaty and the numbness started to reach my fingers. At this moment in time, the thoughts of my family and my future were rushing through my head. I remember thinking to myself, how could this happen already in the prime of my life.
During a 3 minute conversation with a dear friend, I decided that my life and future needed my attention and it needed it fast. It was time to be selfish and take the appropriate steps to safe my life. Let me break up this story to share a very important message. If you EVER experience any symptom of pressure, pain, pulsating, pinching, nervy, dizziness, sweating, jaw ache, or anything else that even remotely seems like a symptom of a heart attack, pick up your phone and call 911. Time is of the essence. For both a heart attack or stroke.
my story continues……
In an instant, I headed for the elevator and I told Lauren (my assistant) that we had to cancel our event and I felt it was best for me to drive us to the hospital. We drove up Spring street in Seattle and eventually found our way to the emergency room of Swedish Hospital in First Hill (Seattle). Lauren drove my car back to the office and I checked myself in. I was fortunate to know that the best way for the hospital to see me and see me quickly was to tell them about my chest pain. To be honest, I was getting dizzy and was a little unsure about what my body was doing to me. I told the front desk women exactly what I was experiencing……
“Hello mam, I believe I am having a heart attack”. She looked up at me, saw the fear in my eyes and immediately got me in to see the nursing staff.
Just minutes later, they were ripping off my suit-jacket and was hooked up to what felt like 5-6 different sensors on a EKG machine. I was asked all the normal questions during the triage:
Are you a smoker?
Do you have family history?
What are you experiencing?
I told the nurse about my morning and within minutes I was having my blood drawn, I had met with an ER doctor and for a moment, I felt a small sense of calm. During two hours of questions, tests, doctor visits, we didn’t know much more than what we had known when I came through the door. I was being monitored. I even texted my brother but didn’t feel that I needed to alarm my wife or my mom. After a fun and engaging conversation with the ER Doc about the Seattle Real Estate market, she was off her shift and headed home for lunch. Within 5 minutes of her leaving, I felt a pain in my arm that was simply impossible to bear. After turning down pain meds and a drips, I was in so much pain I couldn’t imagine going another minute without some sort of intervention. As my lead nurse casually walked in, I told her “its worse, will you call the doctor, I’m going to need some meds”. On a pain scale I was experiencing a 8 out of 10. Within minutes it would be a 10 out of 10. After a quick analysis and an experimental nitroglycerin tab (opens up your vessels and drops your blood pressure) under my tongue, followed by a second tablet, the pain was rolling out of my arm for just a quick moment. It was at that time that they knew I was having a heart attack.
They quickly rushed me to another hospital. I was in and out of an aid-car and found myself experiencing an un-believable amount of pain. I’ll never forget the sound of the wheels as they clicked and rolled along the cold hospital floor on the way to the Cath Lab where I would soon have my surgery. It was a surreal moment where your life flashes before your eyes and you can’t help but think about your family and especially your life at home (my wife). The surgery room felt like a cold blue globe with just a single bed in the middle of the room and tons of machines and equipment that filled out the perimeter of the room. I had my eyes closed as I prayed for my life with my wife and future kids.
Surgery, Recovery and A Test of My Faith
I was awake during entire surgery and I felt each and every subtle move performed by the Cardiologist and his team. We talked about life, Husky Football, Golf and God. When I talked too much, they gave me more sedatives and tried to calm me down. The surgery went well. In fact, it went just as planned. I was wheeled up to my post operation recovery room and although a bit loopy, I was aware, in very little pain and the first 2 people that greeted me were my brother and my wife. I couldn’t have been more scared, happy, anxious, nervous or in shock. It was all of it – at once. Over the next 72 hours I was showered with love and hospital visits. I went home just 32 hours later.
I had a few tough days at home. If I’m being honest, it was brutal. I was told to take it easy, allow my wounds to heal but no one could prepare me for the mental anguish this would cause. In the days following the event I was emotional. I also experienced food poisoning and was as sick as I have ever been. It was awful – but I made it through.
My Wife, My Life and My Decisions
I’m a lucky man. I have an amazing wife that loves me. She kept my family updated throughout the entire process. She was thoughtful, patient, loving and was un-wavering in her support. I wasn’t easy to be around. I struggled for 9 months following my surgery. I just wanted answers. I couldn’t figure out why this could happen at such a young age. I experienced post-traumatic stress and really struggled with anxiety and depression for over a year.
I attended cardiac re-hab per my doctors suggestions. Everyone there was twice my age. I still couldn’t understand what happened. I had just run my first marathon. I don’t drink soda, I don’t LOVE sugar……..I just wanted answers.
I was relatively fit, happy and full of life. I did triathlons, fitness classes and we ate very well at home. Maybe I wasn’t eating the right foods. I kept thinking to myself, was this just my genes? My lifestyle and my diet? Was it stress at work?
For those of you that know me, I work hard and my work has been my life for 15 years. I’m a real estate broker that loves condos, architecture, beautiful homes, big windows and I’m passionate about those that I work for. Could stress and being overworked have led to this?
Here is what I believe. I think genetics are a 1/3 of problem, but we control nearly 70 percent of how our life will end up. I’ve been slowly eliminating stress, increasing my workouts, long walks and started meditation. I still believe in positivity, fierce loyalty and that the 5 closest people in our lives show us who we are. I’m paying attention to the details but there is one major piece of the puzzle that I know I could control.
I’m a cook…..a damn good one too! I have jumped in, head first, with a plan of how food will fuel my body. I realized that in the last 10 years of my life, I had very little knowledge about how whole food plant based eating could literally change the composition of my body. My passion for food even led me to start a food blog.
Post surgery, I initially converted to a Mediterranean diet and recently have been eating more of a whole food plant based diet for 90% of my weeks. I’ve have lost 14 pounds since my surgery. My blood work is phenomenal and I feel better. My anxiety is gone, and I have a profound vision of where my life is headed. I’m turning the page to long and fruitful life that is full of promise and filled with amazing food. Although I ate well, cooked heathy meals and paid attention to my risk factors, I think I experienced this life changing event for a reason.
I want to save your life. Your families life. I believe we have all have a purpose in our lives. If we choose to follow that purpose it can lead to amazing things during our life here on earth. That inspires me. I think heart disease, diabetes, cancers and other disease that plague our country are happening far too often and can be reversed. I believe that what we do or don’t put into our bodies has a tremendous effect on how we will live here on earth.
What I have learned in reading a number of very good books is that life is meant to be lived with a fire in your belly, a clear mind and healthy heart. For me the impact that a Whole Food Plant Based Diet has had on me is profound. I’m not a Vegan. I’m not a Vegetarian, I’m not a Pescatarian or a Flexitarian. Where I am right now in my life is a 38 year old man who wants to change his life for his family and his future kids. I’m going to share my story and recovery with whoever wants to listen. My journey in life pivoted on March 15, 2016. My heart attack has opened up my eyes to the world in a way that I thought was un-imaginable.
I’m not perfect, but I have found a path that makes sense to me. I’m ready to take life by the horns and live each day to the fullest.
I don’t have a magic pill, but I have a willingness to use my story to help others who feel helpless, fearful and don’t know how to change their perspective. I plan on helping heart attack survivors and those looking for a guidance in moving forward in their life with purpose and action.
I survived a heart attack at the age of 36 – this experience was meant to be shared. You must listen to your body and do what it tells you to do. I believe that my life was saved because I took action. That action now has given me the life I have always wanted. I have purpose and I will live each and every day to the fullest. Care to join me and my journey? I’ll keep you posted on a new project I’m working on. My story has fueled the fire in my belly to feed others with the zest of life that I have – both through food and a plan to live life to the fullest.
A heartfelt thank you for all the friends and family that have supported me in my life. I am forever grateful.
“The pressure of adversity does not affect the mind of the brave man… It is more powerful than external circumstances.” -LAS
Thanks for reading my story! Reach out at any time for support, advice or simply to share your story as well. Feel free to comment below.
Eat well, live well.