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Heart Disease: My Story

Don Holmes
Don Holmes, Customer Service Representative, MedCost

I work out between three to four times weekly at the YMCA. My routine usually includes a 35-minute vigorous jog on the treadmill. On alternate days I lift weights.

In the fall of 2007, I began to notice some occasional, uncomfortable heaviness in my chest, especially during periods of exertion. I initially attributed it to pushing a little too hard, or soreness from a previous workout.

One afternoon after work, I went over to the Y to get in an additional workout. Within 5 minutes on the treadmill, I knew something was different and potentially serious.

The heaviness in my chest began much more quickly, and it was painful enough to cause me to stop. As a precaution, I asked the weight room attendants to check my blood pressure. The blood pressure reading was off the charts!

We waited several minutes and took my blood pressure again. It was still in the danger zone.

The attendants said I needed an ambulance, but I insisted on driving home. I told them I would see my doctor the next day. That night the pain lingered as I tried to fall asleep.

The next morning when I arrived at work, I called my doctor’s office and told the nurse what had happened. I gave her the blood pressure readings. She calmly but firmly said: “I want you to hang up immediately and dial 911. You must go to the hospital now.”

How could I be fit enough to work out frequently and still have this happen? I immediately went to the hospital. A heart catheterization revealed I had major blockages in the front and back of my heart. Doctors performed a quintuple bypass operation on me.

I was extremely fortunate that I did not experience a heart attack, but it was imminent.Thankfully, the heart muscle was fine and there was no damage. But I had to make some significant lifestyle changes.

The American Heart Association has been an invaluable resource in helping me to educate myself on how to improve my overall health and make better food choices. They even offer great suggestions on workout routines.

This Saturday, October 29, my company is partnering with Wake Forest Baptist HealthGentivaHanesBrands and many others to sponsor the Winston-Salem Heart & Stroke WalkBesides the “Pooches on Parade” contest, the live band and the beautiful weather, every person has a chance to walk one, two or four miles to strengthen your heart. 

It’s not too late to register! Watch this WXII video of Allison Brashear, MD, describing heart and stroke as two of the top four killers in this “Stroke Belt” of the country. The American Stroke Association says that 80% of strokes are preventable.

Activities begin this Saturday at 8 am and we walk at 9:30 am. It’s a privilege I’ll never take for granted again.

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