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Name: Bob L

Age: 60

Ornish Site: Beacon Health System – Elkhart General 

Health Challenges: Family History

Greatest Motivation: More importantly, I have 6 kids and 7 grandkids (and one on the way) to live for. Three years ago, I would have never thought that we would be doing what we are doing now; buying a motorhome, showing cars, and camping with the grandkids. We are having way too much fun in this life to check out. We are going to do whatever we can do to be around. We’re looking forward to the future, and this program is going to help us live it the way that we want to.

 His Story: There’s an extensive history of heart disease in my family. My grandfather died of a heart attack at age 46, my dad’s brother died of heart attack at 36, and his four sisters all died in their early sixties. In 1983, when I was 27, I lost my dad too, at 47 years old. His autopsy showed that he died of arterial sclerosis.

I wanted to be sure that I was doing everything in my power to turn my life around

After his heart attack, I started regular checkups with my cardiologist because I wanted to stay ahead of my own heart disease. My cholesterol was 320, which was over the recommended limit at the time, so I was put on statins at 27. I changed my diet, didn’t smoke, and tried to be healthy. I stayed active and raised my family. But even then, I was nervous about my health. Eventually, I stopped worrying about it so much; I got through my 40’s and thought, “maybe I didn’t get the heart disease gene,” and into my 50’s and thought, “I beat this thing.” Then, in 2010 at age of 55, I was diagnosed as a Type II Diabetic, and in 2012, heart disease caught up with me.

In January of 2012, while welding in my shop, a flash irritated my eyes, so I went to the eye doctor to make sure I was ok. After waiting and waiting, the optometrist came in and gave me the good and bad news. The good news was that my sight was ok, but the bad news came in the form of a question: “have you ever had your carotid arteries checked?” I told her that I see my cardiologist regularly, but I didn’t know whether the arteries had been checked. She explained that I had bleeding in the back of my eyes, and how – if your carotid is blocked – blood can come up through the artery and not get back down.

 

I already had a cardiology appointment scheduled the next week, so I informed my doctor about my optometrist’s opinion. The doctor asked if I had any dizziness, confusion, or numbness and I didn’t. He thought I would have symptoms if I had a problem, but asked if I wanted to have an ultrasound? I said yes and we scheduled the ultrasound for the next day. When the time came, the technician seemed nervous during the scan, and I couldn’t help but think that something wasn’t right.

 

“I’m blocked, aren’t I?” I asked. “You are majorly blocked in the carotids on both sides,” the tech responded. The doctors immediately put me on blood thinners, told me not to lift, work, or do anything. After that, I was referred to Dr. Scott Thomas, the head of trauma at Memorial Hospital. He said I was 99% blocked and extremely close to having a devastating stroke – I was only 56 years old.

 

They did a nuclear stress test to make sure there weren’t any additional blockages, then my procedures were scheduled – one carotid procedure and then another on the other side a month later. Within 6 months, both my carotids were blocked again to 70%, even though I was on a heart healthy diet and exercise program. My heart disease was very aggressive.

 

Around that time, the doctors warned me that – if I had a heart attack – it wouldn’t be a “grab your chest” type event. Instead, it would be a subtle sign. So, they said, “if anything at all is different than normal, don’t wait. Get checked.” In April of 2013, that advice came in handy. While I was changing a light bulb on my daughter’s car, I felt a little tingle. It was nothing major – I just kept shrugging my shoulders. Then, I felt a slight ache in my left arm. I called my daughter, who reminded me that I would tell anyone else to go get checked in those circumstances. So I did.

 

After getting checked, the doctor told me, “You are a mess – you have 5 arteries that are 95-97% blocked.” They didn’t know how I was functioning. Two days later, a bypass surgery was scheduled. Weeks later, we found out that one of my bypasses was sown too tightly. I had to have a stent put into one of my new bypasses.

Finally, in April of 2016, things began to turn around for me; I enrolled in Ornish Lifestyle Medicine and it changed my life. I was first drawn to the program because I wanted to be sure that I was doing everything in my power to turn my life around. Knowing what I know now, I would have paid anything to go through this class.

The program has benefitted me – both mentally and physically – in so many ways. I am no longer a diabetic, I lost 30 pounds, I was able to reduce my metformin prescription, and I cut my blood pressure medication in half. The blockages in my carotids are down to 50%, whereas they had been holding at 70% before. Furthermore, my A1C was 6.5, and now it is 5.6 – firmly within the normal range.

 

As my health has improved, so has my ability to keep up with the things that I love doing. I’m into building and showing classic cars, for example, and I have a big shop full of tools and cars. Three years ago, when I went through all of this, I started getting rid of the cars, tools, etc., because I didn’t want to make my wife deal with all this stuff if I passed. Now, instead of selling all the cars to make life easier for family, I’ve been able to continue working with cars and doing what I love.

More importantly, I have 6 kids and 7 grandkids (and one on the way) to live for. Three years ago, I would have never thought that we would be doing what we are doing now; buying a motorhome, showing cars, and camping with the grandkids. We are having way too much fun in this life to check out. We are going to do whatever we can do to be around. We’re looking forward to the future, and this program is going to help us live it the way that we want to.

 

The last thing that I’d say is this: until you feel really good, you don’t realize how bad you felt. Three years ago, I would run out of steam and have to stop doing things all the time. Now, I can do anything without getting winded or tired – like I could in my 20s. Ornish Lifestyle Medicine all paid off. If you want the best shot at reversing your heart disease and getting better, enroll and give it all you’ve got.

Contributed by

Adam Farina
Contributor

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