Hey, Man, It’s Time We Have A Heart-to-Heart
by Bruce Johnson, heart
attack survivor and news reporter-anchor
(NAPSI)— “Forty-two-year-old black male, probable heart
attack.” To this day, the paramedics’ words as they rushed me to
It began as a normal Thursday covering news as a street reporter in the toughest part of our nation’s capital. When the severe pain in my chest began, I tore open the top buttons of my dress shirt and loosened my tie to no avail. After a few failed attempts to shake off the pain, I was rushed by ambulance to the local hospital.
As I was rolled into the emergency room, my shirt was cut off, an IV needle was stuck in my arm, and monitoring leads were stuck to my chest. I was given medication to dissolve any blood clots and restart blood flow to my heart. An electrocardiogram showed that I had had a type of heart attack called “the widow maker”: An artery was abruptly and completely blocked. Fifty percent of patients who have this type of heart attack die before they get to the hospital.
My cardiologist was concerned. I was young to be having a heart attack and was outwardly in good health.
Two years before my heart attack, with a lot of help, I had quit smoking and eliminated all alcoholic drinks. However, my job as a reporter for a top news station was inherently stressful. I often grabbed fast food as I tried to balance professional responsibilities with family time. It had all caught up with me.
Later that night, my chest pain came back and I was flown to another hospital where an emergency angioplasty was performed to widen the obstructed artery.
I was in intensive care for several days before starting inpatient cardiac rehab. Within 2 weeks, I was walking and ready to go home. I continued my supervised cardiac rehab as an outpatient for another 6 weeks.
Determined to learn why I had my heart attack and what I could do to prevent another one, I relied on what I did best: research and investigation. I asked my family about our history of cardiovascular disease. I read articles and listened intently when the nurses and doctors explained about my blood pressure, pulse, weight and medications. I worked with a nutritionist who told me that if I ate mostly fresh fruits and vegetables, broiled fish and chicken and lower-fat foods, I could occasionally enjoy spare ribs at family get-togethers.
I had always been athletic before my heart attack but I knew I needed an activity that gave me control of my heart speed. I started by running on a treadmill and then moved my runs outside. I listened to my body but wasn’t afraid to push myself.
I saw my doctors regularly to make sure my heart was functioning at its best. My health care team was stunned by my recovery, often calling me a miracle, which felt great. But not as good as knowing I was living healthy, tracking and controlling my blood pressure and taking care of myself.
Despite my progress, I needed to prove to myself that I was healthy. Since running had be come my passion, I entered the Marine Corps Marathon. With clearance from my doctor, on October 22, 2000—eight years after my heart attack—I ran 26.2 miles. When I crossed the finish line, I knew my heart attack hadn’t defeated or defined me.
I know I was spared. My story could have turned out differently and I am
grateful for this gift of life. But do you know what? This could be you.
Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in
If you learn anything from my story, I hope it’s that YOU have to take care of yourself and your heart. No one else can do it for you. During American Heart Month, and all through the year, make your heart a priority. Know your blood pressure and keep it in control. Don’t smoke. Eat less fatty, salty, and greasy food and more fruits and vegetables. Make an appointment with your doctor. Free resources and information are available from Million Hearts at http://1.usa.gov/1AU65x6. Take it from me: taking action today could save your life tomorrow.
Johnson at the CBS News anchor desk.
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