Health Hero: David Andrews

When David began experiencing discomfort in his chest, he drove himself to the emergency room. It was there that he got the wake-up call of his life. Here, his dramatic story.

I went home for lunch like usual, and as I was finishing, I noticed I had some indigestion. This had never happened before, and it felt odd. I immediately took three aspirin and continued on to the office. That day I was alone and had no work appointments scheduled.  I kept experiencing that feeling you get a few seconds after running up the stairs-when you have to bend over and catch your breath. At one point, that "bend over and catch your breath" feeling simply wouldn't go away.

After a while of debating whether or not I should go to the hospital, I decided that getting myself checked out would be the best thing to do. I really had no pain-just discomfort. But since I was alone in the building, I kept thinking, "If I'm having a heart attack, no one is here to help me." After driving to the hospital, I sat in my car for about five minutes, trying to decide if I wanted to go through the hassle of the emergency routine. I decided that I was feeling better and started the car to leave.  Then a voice in my head (my mom's, to be exact) said, "Oh, what the heck? You're here."

I shut off the car and walked in, bending over. As I approached the window, I said I was not feeling quite right. I was immediately pulled in and hooked up to an EKG. They asked me the usual questions: "Do you smoke?" "No" "Do you have a heart problem in your family?" "No, I have nothing like this in my background." They rushed me into a room and gave me a small nitro pill, which made me feel better. I figured they would let me go soon. After about 30 minutes, though, the feeling came back. It hit me several times, and one time, it was really bad.

They brought in a cardiologist to talk to me, and we went through the Q&A again. He decided to give me a test in which they put ink into your heart. I was given a room, and all night, I lay awake with this uncomfortable feeling. At one point, it got so bad that they finally put me on a drip of nitro. I was thinking to myself that this was not a good sign.

Finally, the morning came. They took me in for some testing, and I vividly remember the most beautiful brown eyes of a nurse and thinking I was in heaven. The next thing I knew, they were rolling me out and telling me I'd had 99 percent blockage of the left ventricle. Fortunately, I had no damage to my heart. They put a stent in me and told me I would be fine. I went home two days later with a $60,000 bill.

The next day, I went to buy new tennis shoes, started to walk slowly, and have not stopped since. I went through cardiac rehab and lost 40 pounds, stopped eating all the things I really like, and made other major adjustments. Soon after, I joined a gym within walking distance. I used to love going home and watching television. Now, after being exhausted, stressed out, and tired, I have to get on an exercise bike and ride six miles.  I've also made many changes to my diet. For example, I've substituted whole milk for skim milk. The toughest part is trying to avoid fast food.

I have a lot more anxiety about things these days. I went from feeling indestructible to the realization that I could be gone tomorrow. I just have to believe that what I am doing will keep me going. The good news is that my son is eating better and knows how to read nutritional labels, too. He's very aware that this could happen to him someday, too.

It's been two years. At 55 years old and 179 pounds, I do cardio five times a week and work out with weights three times a week. I do feel better about what I am doing, but I'd go back to my old lifestyle in a second. Though I don't always enjoy this new way of life, I'll never stop-because it's not an option. 

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