May 13th, 2011
A Change of Heart
It has been 18 months since I last lifted a dumbbell, ran on a treadmill, or attempted anything else to tune my body. In my own defense, I didn’t stop working out because I was lazy; in fact, quite the contrary. Truth is, 18 months ago, my son was born, and, since then, I couldn’t justify spending an hour more away from him than I needed to.
So, over the last year and a half, you could say I became a bit “soft.” Soft around the mid-section; soft in my dietary choices; and soft in my commitment to a healthy lifestyle. Chicken nuggets, macaroni & cheese, donuts, and French fries are so hard to turn down when the precious little hand of your son is feeding them to you, and you see the smile on his face every time you take a “dinosaur bite!”
But, if I have learned anything over the last 6 weeks of working in the ICU and on the Cardiology service, it is that dinosaurs are extinct, and I will be too if I don’t start changing my ways.
Specifically, over the last 2 weeks, I have seen four patients my age (+/- a year or two) who suffered heart attacks and required intervention. Let me be clear here, I saw FOUR patients in a span of 10 days who suffered non-fatal MIs not far from their 32nd birthdays!
One patient I am caring for is a 63-year-old gentleman who also recently suffered a heart attack and subsequently received angioplasty and stent placement. He had no risk factors, no family history, and was not obese. He simply awoke one day with chest pain and decided to get it checked out. Thank goodness he did, because he had near- complete blockage of his left anterior descending artery.
When we rounded on him this morning, he was sitting at his bedside alongside his wife, full of life and with a notebook full of questions. As my attending began to debrief him on the recent events and procedures that were performed, I could see his mind going into overdrive trying to absorb all the information. When it came time for him to ask his questions, he scanned his premade list, took a deep breath, and asked, “How can I prevent this from happening again?”
When I heard this, like a cowboy had jerked on the reigns of a horse, my head perked up. For some reason, this fortunate man’s simple question struck a chord in me. Why should I wait until I am 63 years old and recovering from a heart attack to change my ways? Why should it take an adverse event to convince me that I need to live healthier? I am young and knowledgeable. I need to do it now, if not for me, then for my son and future children. I need to be healthy for them.
When I left work today, I turned over the proverbial leaf. Instead of heading straight home to sit on the couch and wrestle with my little man, I made a quick stop with longstanding benefits.
I joined a gym.