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Name: Donn H

Age: 50- years -old 

Ornish Site: CAMC

Health Challenges: High blood pressure, diabetes, family history of heart disease

Greatest Motivation: Family has always been my biggest motivation for improving my well-being and following through with the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine Program. (Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation) I have a 20-year-old daughter, and she is so important to me. Just a few months ago, I was feeling so bad that I really didn’t think I was going to be able to see her graduate from college, start her career, and have a family. I thought I was going to die in my sleep and miss all of that. But now, I don’t worry about that anymore. In fact, she saw me in some of my new clothes last week and told me that she was really proud of me. It was very touching. I’ve come a long way in a few months.

His Story: Last winter, I’d pretty much gotten to the point where I didn’t function anymore. I’d make it home after work, get into my chair, and just stay there all night. Physically, I was at my lowest point ever; I had high blood pressure, I was up to about 330 pounds, and I had diabetes. Living like that is dangerous for anyone, but it’s particularly dangerous for me—my grandfather and all of his brothers died of heart disease in their 50s, so I’m at risk. One night, I finally came to the conclusion that I had to make a change in my life or I wasn’t going to be around much longer. That’s when I contacted the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine Program.

I told my doctor the other day that I actually like seeing him now

To be honest, despite being highly motivated, I entered the program with one foot in and one foot out the door. I was apprehensive about giving up meat—I’m from West Virginia and that’s all we eat around here—and I was worried about the exercise too. “If I can’t even get out of my chair,” I thought, “how can I exercise?” But really quickly, I started feeling better and losing weight, and so did the other members of my cohort. Once that started happening, my apprehensions, my doubts, my worries—all of that faded away. The staff was also instrumental in helping me along; they taught us all about the different food options on the program, and they worked with me on an individual basis to customize my exercise plan. After about three weeks, I was all in.

Today, I feel so much better than I did before the program. My diabetes and blood pressure statistics have improved drastically, I’ve lost 77 pounds, and I’ve started to finally get my energy back. These days, I’m doing things in one night that used to take me 3 or 4 because I had no energy. The weight loss has been tremendous for me as well; back when I was heavier, I didn’t really go out and socialize with people. In fact, I hated it. I didn’t like getting dressed in the morning. I just felt bad. But now, it’s actually fun to go out to see people and even buy new clothes. The program has totally changed my life.

As I’ve started to feel better, I’ve finally been able to get back to doing the things that I love. For example, I’ve always been an outdoors-type person. I love to fish, hunt, kayak—all of it. But before I started the program and got healthier, I stopped doing those things because I just couldn’t keep up—even with my 80 year old father. I remember he used to have to check on me pretty often when we were doing work together, and it always bothered me. He was 80, and I was 50; I should have been checking on him. Now that I’m healthier, I can hold my own again, I can kayak with my brother again, and most importantly, I can check on my father again—just like I’m supposed to. That means a lot to me.

Even beyond my father and my brother, family has always been my biggest motivation for improving my wellbeing and following through with the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine Program. I have a 20-year-old daughter, and she is so important to me. Just a few months ago, I was feeling so bad that I really didn’t think I was going to be able to see her graduate from college, start her career, and have a family. I thought I was going to die in my sleep and miss all of that. But now, I don’t worry about that anymore. In fact, she saw me in some of my new clothes last week and told me that she was really proud of me. It was very touching. I’ve come a long way in a few months.

Today, I even tease my doctors every time I see them. I used to hate going to the doctor’s office, because every time I’d go, it was a doom and gloom session. But I told my doctor the other day that I actually like seeing him now, because all he does is sit there, scratch his head, and tell me, “keep doing whatever you’re doing. It’s working.” I love that. No more doom and gloom for me.

Ultimately, without the program, I didn’t think I was going to live—and now I do. I’ve been given the tools to keep improving my wellbeing and to finish out my life the way I want to live it, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do. I couldn’t be happier. I only wish I had done it sooner.

Contributed by

Adam Farina
Contributor

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