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Name: Mike K.

Age: 68-Years-old

Ornish Site: Hunterdon Medical Center

Health Challenges: Heart attack, two bypass surgeries, Type 2 Diabetes 

Greatest Motivation: My daughter and my grandkids are staying with me right now, for example, and I have much more energy to play with them now than ever before. I used to get so exhausted from playing with them that I’d have to lie down and take a nap—even if we only played for a couple of hours. But yesterday, I played with them for 10 hours straight without any problems (granted, I was exhausted after those ten hours, but anyone would be with a seven year old and a three year old). I felt great, ran around with them, and had a lot of energy.

His Story: I suffered a major heart attack 26 years ago at the age of 42, and it came completely out of the blue. Well, it came out of the blue because I didn’t know any better; if I knew then what I know now, then I might have seen it coming. When the heart attack hit, the doctors couldn’t treat me at the local medical center so I was airlifted to the University of Pennsylvania. There, they tried to stent me, but the stents wouldn’t take, so I went into quadruple bypass surgery. The whole ordeal was shocking, and I fell into a fog. I kept asking myself, “How did this happen? Why me?”—and other despairing questions like that. Eventually, my fog turned into anger, which—over time and after a second bypass surgery—faded into acceptance: I finally realized that I had to change the way that I was living in order to get better.

I’ve lost 12 pounds, reduced my medications, and most importantly, feel a lot, lot better

My doctors were able to keep me alive for the next 26 years, but when your heart is damaged, and time goes on, it only gets weaker and weaker.That’s why, when I heard that Hunterdon Medical Center was going to be offering the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine Program (Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation), I was immediately intrigued. I saw that the program was the only thing that could get my heart back to where it needed to be, so I enrolled right away. Looking back, I’m so glad that I did.

The medical benefits of the program have been tremendous. I’ve lost 12 pounds, reduced my medications, and most importantly, feel a lot, lot better. I have far more energy than I used to, and although I still have every day aches and pains, they’re a lot easier to cope with now than ever before. Simply put, I feel really healthy.

The medical benefits of the program have extended into my personal life as well. My daughter and my grandkids are staying with me right now, for example, and I have much more energy to play with them now than ever before. I used to get so exhausted from playing with them that I’d have to lie down and take a nap—even if we only played for a couple of hours. But yesterday, I played with them for 10 hours straight without any problems (granted, I was exhausted after those ten hours, but anyone would be with a seven -year- old and a three- year old). I felt great, ran around with them, and had a lot of energy. Being able to do that—to spend more meaningful time with my family—means a lot to me. I couldn’t have done that without the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine Program.

Each of the program’s four elements—stress management, group support, fitness, and nutrition—has played a large role in getting me to where I am today. I’ve been eating well and exercising for years now, so the nutrition and fitness elements came to me very easily, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the two other elements—stress management and group support—ended up having the biggest impact on my life. The stress management part was brand new to me, but I took to it quickly and found it very helpful. The group support was even more helpful. Traditionally, I haven’t been a demonstrative person; I tend to bottle things up and hold them inside. But the interaction with the other people in my cohort changed that; the camaraderie, the ease with which we got along with each other, the ability to open up and talk about any subject—those things were a revelation for me. Today, I communicate more freely and express empathy a lot more openly than I ever did before. My cohort always had my back, it was fantastic. They’ll be my friends for life.

My cohort also helped ensure that I’d make it through the program. My dedication to the program and its components never wavered, but—as is the case with anything—there are days where you just don’t want to do something, days where you feel the aches and pains of life and want to just stay home. But even on those days, I went to the session because I didn’t want to disappoint the people in my group—didn’t want to miss spending time with my friends. And showing up always paid off; without fail, the minute I showed up at the program, my aches and pains disappeared.

Moving forward, I plan to stick with the program for two main reasons. First, I’ve been married to the same wonderful woman for over 44 years now, and I want to be around for her for as long as I possibly can be. Second, I want to see my grandkids go to school, see them get married, and help them out in any way that I can. Basically, I just want to be there for them. Today, with the help of the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine Program, I’m a lot more confident that I’ll be able to make those goals a reality.

Lastly, to anyone who is thinking about enrolling in the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine Program, I highly recommend it. You will feel healthier, you will have more energy, and you will cut down on your medications. It’s the only program that is proven to reverse heart disease, and I know that some of its lifestyle changes can be daunting, but I promise that being healthy makes them all more than worthwhile—every single penny, every bit of effort. Give it a try, you won’t regret it.

 

 

 

 

Contributed by

Adam Farina
Contributor

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