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Name: Victor L.

Age: 66

Location: UCLA Health

Health Challenge : Heart Attack, More than 7 Stents, Quintuple Bypass

Greatest Motivation: Before the surgery, I’d be tired if I only slept for six hours, but now if I sleep for six hours I feel great! I stay up all day without any problems at all—and I’m far more active than I used to be. I get up at five o’clock in the morning and walk for at least 60 minutes outside. I really enjoy that time; there’s hardly anyone on the roads, hardly any traffic, and I’m even able to see the stars. I just feel great—I’m not hungry, I’m not tired—I can’t believe how good I feel thanks to the program.

His Story: I’ve had a long struggle with heart disease. In 1998, I suffered a minor heart attack and had two stents put into my heart. Since then, I’ve had several more stents put in—at least 7, but I’m not exactly sure how many. My chest pain continued into early 2014 and I became completely dependent on medicine. I’d have to take 3 or 4 nitros a day just to alleviate my pain. I felt absolutely helpless. If I wanted to keep living, I’d have to take a pill. Carrying my medicine felt like I was carrying a chain.

“Everything inside of me—my heart, my stomach, my liver, my lungs—is functioning at 100 percent.”

Eventually I went back to the doctor, who found some abnormalities and recommended even more stents. During the surgery, the doctors found that I had three arteries severely clogged—one 100 percent, another 80 percent, and a third 70 percent. We finally realized the severity of the situation and—just six days later—I had quintuple bypass surgery.

The surgery was a success, but when I tried to walk I couldn’t make it to the other end of the room. I knew that I had to improve my wellbeing and began looking around for different recovery techniques. Luckily, I found out about the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine Program (Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation) and became a part of the first cohort at UCLA. Since then, my health has completely turned around. I’ve lost 30 pounds and 10 inches around my waist, my heart pain has severely decreased, and I feel more knowledgeable about my health today than I ever have before.

Even more important, I’ve never felt this clean inside my body before. It’s hard to even put the feeling into words—it feels like my organs took a nice refreshing shower. It’s a new beginning; everything inside of me—my heart, my stomach, my liver, my lungs—is functioning at 100 percent. In fact, just this morning my daughter commented on how good I seemed to be doing. I smiled and told her that the last time I felt this good was when I was 18 years old. My energy level has also improved dramatically.

Before the surgery, I’d be tired if I only slept for six hours, but now if I sleep for six hours I feel great! I stay up all day without any problems at all—and I’m far more active than I used to be. I get up at five o’clock in the morning and walk for at least 60 minutes outside. I really enjoy that time; there’s hardly anyone on the roads, hardly any traffic, and I’m even able to see the stars. I just feel great—I’m not hungry, I’m not tired—I can’t believe how good I feel thanks to the program.

The program has also allowed me to limit my dependence on medication. My blood sugar medicine was cut completely, my blood pressure medicine was cut by 75 percent, and I expect to cut out even more medicine the next time I see my doctor. I used to take 30 pills a day and it would make me sick. Today, I take just 5 pills and my body feels no stress whatsoever. I’ve taken back my independence; I’m extremely thankful to have reduced my medicines so dramatically. Without the program I would not be where I am today.

I can say that with confidence because I have friends who have attempted to recover from heart disease using traditional methods, but haven’t had the level of success that I’ve had. I have a neighbor in that very situation. He had open heart surgery, but hasn’t changed his lifestyle or his habits, and now he’s already beginning to have problems again. Luckily, my experience has been different. I believe in the program. I expect to live and follow it for a long time.

To someone who is considering joining the program, I would say don’t hesitate. It is so rewarding and it’s so simple—and you’ll feel 100 percent better. I’ve never felt so good in my whole life, and anyone can do it. Just look at what’s happened to me; I’ve lost weight, I feel better, and I’ll be around for my family for a long time. I hope to see my grandchildren graduate from high school and get their diplomas, and in a few years I’d like to see them walking down the aisle, getting masters degrees, and maybe even getting PHDs. I want to support them, help them, and be brave for them in any way I can—and I believe that the program has helped me to do that. If you join the program, it can do the same for you.

Contributed by

Adam Farina
Contributor

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