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Name: Barbara M.

Age: 75

Location: St. Jude Medical Center

Health Challenge: Heart attack, 2 angioplasties, atherectomy, pacemaker 

Greatest Motivation: I also have more energy now that I’m on the program. My activities are probably the same as they used to be, but I can do them with a little more enthusiasm. I’ve got a little more “umph” to me now, you know? Bigger smile, brighter feelings. I feel cleansed, too—almost like the inside of my body took a nice, long shower. Six weeks ago, we were complete strangers—we’d never even seen each other before—but now we share a special bond. I really am in awe of the program; it’s informative, it’s interesting, and it really works.  Today, every day is a gift and I am grateful.

Her Story: My mother passed away at age 47 of a heart attack. She went to sleep one night and just didn’t wake up, which was heartbreaking for me. The number 47 stuck in my head for years after that—I never felt comfortable that I’d make it past that age. But even so, when I had my heart attack in my early 50s, I didn’t realize what was going on. It was just kind of an achy feeling, so I wasn’t too worried about it. But there was something inside of me that told me “Barbara, you need to go to the doctor.” So that’s what I did.

“I feel very fortunate to have survived and become one of the people that’s able to share their story.”

When we arrived at the hospital, I was rushed straight to the ER and really began to feel some pain. My blood pressure was going haywire and the doctors turned the bed upside down for whatever reason. They even asked my husband if he knew a priest just in case the worst happened—things had progressed that far. To combat the trauma I had an angioplasty, because at the time they did not do stents. The artery collapsed six weeks later, so they did another angioplasty. That one also collapsed, so they did an arteriotomy. Since then, I’ve had a pacemaker installed and, more recently, two stents. The original experience was devastating for me. Totally devastating.

Afterwards, I didn’t like the way that my family was hovering around me. Everyone was scared that something would happen. I felt like I had a sign on me that said “Handle with care.” Even my husband didn’t want to go out of town—he didn’t want to do anything, actually—because he wanted to be close to a hospital at all times. I knew that I had to make a change, and Dr. Ornish’s book had just come out, so I began following as much of the program as I could, and I’ve done so for the past 20 years now. Then, last year, the program came to St. Jude Medical Center and my doctor recommended that I do it. I signed up right away, and since that time I haven’t had any symptoms. It’s a great program.

The components of the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine Program (Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation) are great, every one of them. At first I was a little hesitant about the time commitment (four hours twice a week), but I’ll tell you what, those four hours go by so fast I can hardly believe it. The staff is so great, and the group support is just amazing. Six weeks ago, we were complete strangers—we’d never even seen each other before—but now we share a special bond. I really am in awe of the program; it’s informative, it’s interesting, and it really works. And I know people worry about giving up meat and other foods, but the nutrition part is actually really interesting and some of the recipes are good. Everyone shares recipes, food products and restaurants they have experienced, so it gets to the point where it’s not about what you can’t eat, it’s about what you can eat. And the list seems to grow and grow.

I also have more energy now that I’m on the program. My activities are probably the same as they used to be, but I can do them with a little more enthusiasm. I’ve got a little more “umph” to me now, you know? Bigger smile, brighter feelings. I feel cleansed, too—almost like the inside of my body took a nice, long shower. I’d recommend the program to anybody.

Overall, I feel very fortunate to have survived and become one of the people that’s able to share their story—I know a lot of people aren’t in that position. Today, every day is a gift and I am grateful. I volunteer at the hospital, spend time with my family, enjoy knitting scarfs for charitable organizations, and do some things for church. I enjoy those things, and want to feel good enough to keep doing them for as long as I possibly can. To me, that’s more than enough reason to do the Ornish Program. Way more than enough.

 

 

Contributed by

Adam Farina
Contributor

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