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Name: Pete G.

Age: 49

Ornish Site: Hunterdon Medical Center

Health Challenges: Heart attack, died before being resuscitated `

Great Motivation: I was worried about my family after my heart attack. I literally died for a few minutes on the ice that day, and if I hadn’t come back, then I don’t know where my family would be right now. I don’t even want to think about it—and now, I don’t have to. That’s what this has always been about for me—my wife and my son—and today, I’m confident that I’ll be here with them for a long time to come

His Story:  Five months ago, I died. I was playing ice hockey with my club team, had a heart attack, and actually died on the ice. Luckily for me, there was an AED at the rink and the paramedics restarted my heart and were able to bring me back. But the whole event was obviously a complete surprise. At the time, I didn’t know that I had any heart problems whatsoever. I knew that I had a family history of heart disease—my father passed away from it a year and a half ago—but I was playing hockey three times a week and thought I was pretty healthy. Clearly, I was wrong.

My doctor’s exact comment about my improvements was “I don’t even understand how this is possible.”

After I was resuscitated, I remember lying in my hospital bed and thinking, “Oh God, what if I had actually died? What would’ve happened to my wife and my son?” I couldn’t shake the feeling. My son is 16, and I want to see him grow up to be a man. I can’t imagine anything worse than not being around to see that. So, as I was lying there, I knew that I had to make a serious change in my life to turn my health around. Shortly after, my doctor told me about the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine program (Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation), and from then on, I was all in.

Today, just five months later, I feel amazing. The guys on my hockey team see it, my family sees it—everyone sees it. First of all, I’ve lost a ton of weight. After just a few weeks on the program, my old clothes started hanging off of me, so I bought new clothes, and now those clothes are hanging off of me too. It’s wild. When I was rushed to the hospital in October, I weighed 272 pounds; today, I weigh 207—and I lost those 70 pounds in no time at all. My other numbers have improved as well; my cholesterol decreased from 270 mg/dl to 90, and my blood pressure decreased so much that I was actually able to cut my blood pressure medication in half. I think that my doctor’s exact comment about my improvements was “I don’t even understand how this is possible.” The results have been amazing.

I’m confident that I’ll be (with my family) for a long time to come.

The most important moment for me on the program came just three weeks after I started it. By that time, I could already see that I was losing some weight, and I knew that I was feeling good, but all of that was in my own head—nobody else had validated those thoughts yet. My family sees me every day, and I see myself in the mirror every day, so gradual changes like that can sometimes slip by without anyone noticing. But when we had our first program session after a short holiday break, a couple of the nurses went out of their way to stop me and say, “You look phenomenal.” And they weren’t saying that just to say it; they meant it. For me, that comment confirmed that this program was the right thing to do. I knew that things were coming together for me. That felt really good.

Another benefit of the program is that I feel so much better at work. My job is a bit stressful, but these days, I’m able to take a step back and no longer get so angry about the little things that used to bother me to no end. Plus, I have so much more energy than I did before the program. I wake up and I’m ready to go. I used to drink about seven cups of coffee per day, and now I don’t have a drop of caffeine. People used to joke with me at work, saying that I basically lived out of the concession machine; all day I’d have soda, snickers, coffee—you name it. But now, there’s none of that. I don’t need it anymore.

The program has been so good for me that I’ve started trying to convince others to do it as well. In fact, I actually got my sister to join the program, and she’s already feeling the benefits. Whenever I talk to someone about the program, what I tell them is this: Do it. Whether you have heart disease or you don’t, do it. The program genuinely helps you get better rather than just masking the side effects of your problems. For example, when most people have blockages, they go to the hospital and have a stent put in. Then they feel fine for a while, but if they keep living the way they always have, they’ll be back for another stent. And another. And another—until it’s too late. But on the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine program, it’s not like that.. The program deals with the root cause of heart disease rather than just slapping a band-aid on it. That makes all the difference.

Lastly, as I mentioned earlier, I was worried about my family after my heart attack. I literally died for a few minutes on the ice that day, and if I hadn’t come back, then I don’t know where my family would be right now. I don’t even want to think about it—and now, I don’t have to. That’s what this has always been about for me—my wife and my son—and today, I’m confident that I’ll be here with them for a long time to come. To be able to say that, just five months after dying, shows exactly what the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine program has done for me: it’s turned my life around completely.

Contributed by

Adam Farina
Contributor

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