Sunday, July 17, 2011

Heart Walk 2011...In Memory of my Pops

On September 17, 2011 I will be participating in the American Heart Association Heart Walk. The walk is in effort to raise money for the American Heart Association in hopes of finding new ways of fighting heart disease and stroke. This event is really important to me because in December of 2010 I lost my father to a heart attack. The heart attack was an unexpected event that took place two days before Christmas. It was on this day that my life would be changed forever.

In 1990 when I was only two years old my father had his first heart attack, he was 40 years old. Unfortunately my dad was all too familiar with this disease because at the age of 16 he lost his father to a heart attack, his dad being only 40 years old. My dad knew of the possibility of dealing with heart disease at a very young age and struggled to live his life without a father. He was the oldest of three other siblings, so my grandma had a handful to deal with. She put her faith in God and knew that the only choice she had was to continue living, not only for herself but also for her children. Her children needed a mother more than they ever had, so for her grieving was something that had to be put on the back burner. Luckily she is an amazingly strong women of God and she was able to rely fully on her faith. My dad struggled and it took a long time for him to realize that the only choice he had was to live his life to the fullest.

After my dads first heart attack he dramatically changed his life. He had always loved exercising but he needed to change his diet. He decided to increase the amount he worked out and trained to run a marathon. My dad ran a number of events around San Diego but his biggest goal would be the day he completed the Rock and Roll Marathon in San Diego. He loved running and found that it allowed him to relax. My mom and dad would go on runs together every weekend and it became something they enjoyed doing together.

Throughout the twenty years that my dad was dealing with heart disease he was in and out of the hospital on numerous occasions. My sophomore year of high school would be the first time that I really understood what was going on with my dad. At the age of two being at the hospital wasn't something I understood, but at the age of fifteen I clearly understood how scary the situation was. As my family and friends waited in the waiting room I remember I was so scared. The doctor came out and told us my dad would have to have open heart surgery. My dads heart had dropped, not from the disease but from the thought of having open heart surgery. He had it in his mind that once he had to have that procedure he would no longer be able to do anything on his own. Open heart surgery was something that scared him to death.

It was at that time that we met Dr. Teirstein at Scripps Green Torrey Pines. He told my dad that he could place stents in the arteries that would act as a balloon and open the artery. I remember how happy my dad was to find someone that had a way of helping him without open heart surgery. He would have five stents placed in multiple arteries but felt so much better. Once again he changed his lifestyle. He changed his entire diet and started researching the best things to eat and not to eat. He had a fire in him that wasn't going to burn out until he did everything in his power to fight this disease. Three years later he would be back in the hospital receiving two more stents. He was now up to seven stents. Once again he researched what else he could do to help keep himself alive. He never stopped searching for new things that he could do.

In April of 2010 my dad would have another heart attack that would leave him in the hospital for a couple days. This time it was the left ventrical that was affected, which is one of the main arteries for blood flow to the heart. The doctor was amazed at my dads ability to constantly fight these blocks and not have more intense heart attacks. He showed my mom and I the picture of my dads heart and how my dads body would build arteries of its own trying to fight the ones that were blocked. Hearing this was truly amazing. I told my mom that God is watching him and that God is with us through this entire process. In November of 2010 the doctor decided to go back in to make sure that the procedure that was down in April was holding up well. They had to do this because my dad didn't have usual side effects, so it was hard to know what was going on. His EKG would be normal, his stress test normal, but as soon as they went in they would come to find out their was a blockage. He would get two more stents, making it 9 total.

About a month later we would lose my dad to a heart attack. We have been told that he more than likely passed away from a blood clot. He had just ran, the thing that he loved to do more than anything, and was on his way home to prepare for Christmas. He was planning on getting all his cards together as they were sitting on the table by his chair. The events of that day are stuck in my mind as if they happened yesterday. I wish with everything I had that I could get rid of those moments but I know it doesn't work like that. We could sit here and try to figure out why a month after his procedure we lost him but all that will do is hold us back from healing. My dad did everything he possibly could to lengthen his life but he wasn't meant to be with us any longer. He taught me what true love is and that is something that nobody can take from me.

Sixty years ago when my grandpa passed away the technology we have now was non-existent. I fully believe that without the AHA and others fighting to find new technology, my dad wouldn't have lived as long as he did. This is the reason that we all need to support AHA and do everything in our power to fight for new technology. You may not have been affected by heart disease just yet, but chances are at some point you will be affected by either a heart attack or stroke. I ask that you join me in my effort to support AHA and to show your love for those who have been affected by heart disease. It would mean the world to me to have people there along side me walking and showing their support. I truly hope that you will have the time to be there on September 17, 2011. Even if you can't donate, I would still love for you to walk with my team.

Not a day goes by that I don't think about my dad or wish that he was here. He was my best friend and the most amazing father I could have ever asked for. I was lucky to have 22 years with him and cherish all the memories I have. I know that it's now my duty to show love to anyone I come in contact with just as he did. There is so much of my father in me and I can't let him down. My life goal is to make him proud and to one day be reunited with him, as well as my grandpa.

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Thank you for taking the time to read this and I hope you can join me on September 17, 2011.

God Bless,

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