Still here 11 years after death

Friends had gently told me my lifestyle choices were dangerous, but I didn't think they applied to me.

  • Sep. 19, 2014 8:00 a.m.

Gerry Bakker

contributor

 

It was 11 years ago, at the age of 48, I had a heart attack, had surgery to repair three blocked arteries that were 90 per cent, 80 per cent and 70 per cent blocked from a life of high stress, junk food and no exercise while running a high tech computer software company.

I had no idea it was coming and no idea that I would soon have the entire white light experience described by so many other survivors before me (an enlightening story for another day).

Fortunately, for me, I survived with the odds being about 50/50 per cent that I would survive the initial heart attack and the 25 per cent chance that I would have a life altering stroke during the surgery to bypass those clogged arteries with arterial grafts borrowed from my spare arteries in my breast meat and my radial artery in my left front arm.

The recovery was very painful and slow for the first 3-4 months when you think of the fact the the surgeons had to saw my sternum in half, spread my ribs open and then peel my left breast meat off of the ribs so they could snip open the 5 or 6 ends of the spare artery in my chest and then reroute them, intact, through my armpit back to be stapled unceremoniously onto my heart to bypass the blocked arteries that fed my heart muscle. Apparently that wasn’t enough so they also borrowed a foot long length of my radial artery from  my left forearm to patch up whatever was left to complete the surgery.

During that post-operative painful and paranoid time I had a lot of time to think about how I had arrived at this misfortunate set of circumstances, who was to blame and what action could be taken to prevent that from happening again so I read a few books that were strongly recommended to me and signed up for a program that probably changed and saved my life over the last decade. You see, while in the hospital waiting for my turn for surgery, I had the good fortune of being able to walk around the ward and visit with about 70 other cardiac patients to see if I could piece together a picture of what I was in for and what they had done or not done to end up there again.

Much to my surprise most of them were repeat surgery patients in for the second or third time and although many were sneaking out for a smoke or having their spouse smuggle some contraband fast food such as cheeseburgers and milkshakes most of them had no idea why they were in there again because all of them boasted about how they had made significant lifestyle changes on their doctors advice. Many of them were grossly overweight but a number of them were skinny and didn’t, at first, seem to be likely candidates. A number of them were in as soon as 6 months after their previous bypass surgery, completely clogged again.

After a few minutes of sharing stories with each one of these fellow patients it became quite clear why they were here in the first place and why many of them would be back again.

A few days of this and I resolved to myself that I would not voluntarily be here again if I was able to do anything about. Recognizing this I knew I needed to get an education that should have been taught in public school to every student early in their life. I firmly believe that I, as an intelligent human being, would have lived my life differently if I had been given the right tools to make informed decisions about food, exercise and stress related issues. Instead, I like most of the North American affluent society we live in had no idea and lived a blissful carefree life of ignorance and packed on the pounds, clogged my arteries and began to suffer from one of the top 20 killer diseases in North American society that don’t seem to exist in poorer countries around the world.

Thankfully, I knew a few members of the local CHIP organization (Complete Health Improvement Program) who had gently warned me for years about my unhealthy lifestyle and reminded me of the risks and how I should, as a responsible spouse and parent, enrol in their program and change my dangerous lifestyle for life. I just didn’t think it  applied to me. I was 6 foot talk and 170 pounds, I was healthy, relatively skinny compared to many around me so I thought I was OK as is. After all, who wants to change if there isn’t any pain at this time in your life.

Obviously, at the hospital and post-surgery there was a lot of pain and now the CHIP people really had my attention. Fortunately, a new fall program was starting just at the time and I was able to shuffle around enough to be driven there and start taking their famous 4 week, 4 evenings per week,  lifestyle changing program. It was a real eye opener and had welcome answers to my hundreds of questions as to how I had arrived in this predicament in the first place and how I could easily, with a bit of self-discipline, positively impact my life forever.

Their program was not and is not a quick fix DIET program – it is a lifestyle changing program that gives you the education to make simple and informed choices regarding optimal health changes that are easy to make and easy to keep. They are easy to keep because the education I received make a compelling argument for what you need to do if you want a relatively pain free and sickness free life. I learned that those 20 killer diseases were all preventable and many were reversible in as little as 30 days if you had the self-discipline to avoid processed and packaged food products and how to combine low stress, no cost, exercise and other common sense facts as a result of their easy to follow Complete Health Improvement Program.

I must say, I believe I would have avoided the entire heart attack experience if I had been given the gift of this education earlier in my life. Now that I have that education I recognize that my health is entirely my responsibility and that there is no one else on earth to blame for anything that I may suffer from this day forward. After that horrible heart attack and surgery recovery experience I made a commitment to myself that I would do whatever it takes to prevent that from happening again.

With the tools I received from the CHIP program I set out to practice those life style changes and to measure and monitor my health improvement for over 11 years now. The net result is that I lost the extra weight, am physically fit by just walking 5-8 km a day, and eat all I want and all I can without any worry about being overweight while also feeling better than any time I can remember in my entire life. I am thriving, not surviving. I am enjoying life more than I could ever have imagined laying on that surgical gurney 11 years ago.

If this story resonates at all with you and you are looking to make a real life saving change in your own life then get in contact with the good folks at http://www.chiphealth.com/ – there is a program starting next week in Kelowna.

 

 

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