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Name: Karl

Age: 40

Ornish Site: Beacon Health System, South Bend, IN

Health History: Family history of heart disease, heart attack.

Greatest Motivation: It’s also brought me closer to my daughters. They are all glad that I’ve made the changes and are super supportive. One of my daughters is a vegetarian, so we get to talk, cook together and share recipes. My middle daughter and I bond over exercise.

His Story: I always felt healthy because I exercised, meditated sometimes and even read books about stress management because I had stressful job as a police officer. I always had a bit of a belly. My Dad had a heart attack at 60 and 66, so I knew that meant I needed to watch out. But I was 40, so I figured I had a few years before I needed to worry about it.

I have the confidence that I will live a long time

Then one afternoon at a cookout with my family, I felt some chest pain. I’ve never liked attention or talking about myself, so I snuck out of the cookout and went home. The chest pain was still there, so I pressed 911 on my cell phone, but never hit dial. I then called my brother and told him how I was feeling. He and my brother-in-law rushed over. I was lying on the floor when they arrived. They called 911, and while they were on the phone with the operator, I started to feel intense chest pain and stopped being able to feel my arms. The ambulance arrived and took me to the hospital.

When I arrived at the hospital, a team was waiting. The doctor told me I was having a heart attack. They didn’t put in a stent, but they busted up a clot. After surgery, I went into a room and saw all three of my daughters. They were all crying. I knew right there I was lucky, and I thought, “This is never going to happen again!”

I learned about two programs, including the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine program. When I heard that Ornish Lifestyle Medicine (Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation) reversed heart disease, I jumped on board. I needed that. When I got the details of the program in early July, I immediately stopped eating meat, and then started the program two weeks later.

I was excited. I like a challenge, and this felt like one I wanted to try. Learning about the program was so cool. There was someone to guide me through it and be in charge. It was overwhelming, but the entire Beacon team was so helpful with hands-on support teaching me all kinds of techniques. We complained about the trackers, but truthfully, they kept me organized. There was a purpose for everything. Nine weeks was the perfect amount of time. I’m lucky to work at Beacon Health, they allowed me the time to commit to make these changes and now I get to see the team around the building. The team is so kind and still very supportive.

Looking back, I was not healthy. I’ve now lost 15 lbs, and my belly is gone. I was not open before, I was quiet, and I didn’t feel the group support was going to do much for me. I didn’t want to open up, but I ended up loving that part. I was opening up to new friends. I really bonded with Jerry (fellow participant). In just a couple of weeks, we became great friends. We now talk regularly and get together for lunch after the alumni meetings.

It’s also brought me closer to my daughters. They are all glad that I’ve made the changes and are super supportive. One of my daughters is a vegetarian, so we get to talk, cook together and share recipes. My middle daughter and I bond over exercise.

I had been taking a blood thinner, statins, and blood pressure medications. Now I’m off the blood thinner and will be off the statin next month after my visit with my doctor.

I feel better than I have ever felt in my life. My foggy memory has gone away. The things I stressed about before seem minor now, so looking at all of life I don’t stress over the small stuff. I am now motivated to do things I would have never done before.

I would tell someone to do this in a heartbeat (pun intended). This has motivated me to help others make changes. With the way I feel now, I have the confidence that I will live a long time and I am motivated to do so. I am so energized.

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