We continue with our series on heart disease and prevention which is the number one killer of men and women in this country. For this story we focus on us guys. We met a Parker man who not only had 1 heart attack, but 2 last year and explains how his life has dramatically changed for the better because of it.
Valentine's Day. Most men probably wouldn't say that, but this man is scarred for life after that day. At the time he was 52 years old and living in Montana. He came home from work and started making dinner but also started feeling a pain in his back. He knew something was up after watching his mom die at the age of 74 from heart disease.
Kevin says, "I just remember for no apparent reason her saying you know Kevin, it was so weird, it wasn't like I had a ton of pressure on my chest or my jaw hurt or shooting pain down my left side. With me (his mom) it was a dull ache that zigzagged back and forth between by shoulder blades. And it was plain as day I can remember my mom sitting on her bed telling me about her heart attack and boom it him me. I have an ache zigzagging in my back that wouldn't go away."
He finally drove to the hospital and was flown to Billings Montana and had open heart surgery to repair 5 of his damaged vessels. His surgeon told him he died three times on the operating table, but kept coming back to life. Kevin says a quintuple bypass and waking up on a ventilator was a wakeup call of epic proportions to change his ways.
Kevin says, "I was smoking 2 packs of camel a day. I did the Atkins diet on and off and ate all kinds of meat, eggs, cheese. My idea of exercise was trying to figure out where I put the remote control and driving around the parking lot for 15 minutes trying to find a parking spot one spot closer and while I was driving I'd have another cigarette."
Kevin incorporated exercise into his daily life and stuck to a heart healthy diet. In October the new and improved now 53 year old moved back to South Dakota to Parker, but in November it happened again. After feeling pain in his chest, his girlfriend drove him to the Avera Heart Hospital just to be sure nothing was wrong. Something was wrong though.
Kevin says, "The nurse in the AHH emergency department told me my enzymes were up and I just figured it was because I lost a kidney in 1998 so I asked her what that means. She said well sometime this morning you had a heart attack. After everything I've gone through and all the bad habits I changed I just could not believe I had another heart attack."
Cardiologist Dr. Mark Gordon with North Central Heart says, "The sooner you get in when you are having a heart attack the more benefit you'll get from our therapies we have. The less heart muscle will be damaged."
All the lifestyle changes that Kevin has made have been tough. He says by far the hardest thing on him was quitting smoking. He loved to smoke. He used to always check all his pockets before he left the house to make sure he had his smokes, now he makes sure he has his nitro.
Kevin is back in cardiac rehab at the Avera Heart Hospital after having surgery in December to put 2 stents in the one artery that wasn't bypassed after his first heart attack. He also echoes what everyone here lives by and that is if you are experiencing heart attack symptoms don't wait just go. He did... twice... and knows he's alive today because of it.
To reduce your risk of heart attack Dr. Gordon says you need to know your cholesterol levels and blood pressure. If they're high get treated to bring them down. If you are overweight... lose weight and if you smoke... quit.