The day that changed my life

February 21, 1970 was not a typical Saturday morning. I would normally be glued to the TV watching cartoons. Instead, I was preparing to visit my father in Alliance City Hospital. He was being transferred out of intensive care. A phone call that morning changed my world. The call from the hospical infomred my mother that my father had passed away.

My dad lived an unhealthy life. He did not take care of himself and ignored signs of serious health conditions. He repeatedly threw up blood during the week before his death. My mom pleaded with him many times before he agreed to head to the hospital.

He was diagnosed with a bleeding ulcer. Complicating that diagnosis was the fact that he had coronary heart disease and untreated hypertension. His fight for life would end on February 21, 1970, before any of these issues could be addressed.

The effect on me was quite traumatic. My dad was only 60 years old and seemed invincible. My dad was the breadwinner of the family. I recall returning to school where students unaware of his death questioned me on where I had been. I dreaded those first week back in the classroom. I hid the grief and avoided encounters that would deepen the wound.

That grief of my dad’s death never left me. I did learn to live with it and build a new path in life. Five years after my dad’s death, I experienced that familiar grief with the death of my sister. I again learned to live and grow out of that grief.

Infographic courtesy of Peace Health.

February is American Heart Month. Every year I share my thoughts on the importance of being heart healthy. Up to this point, I have shared my personal heart attack and heart surgery story. This year I am sharing this story to raise awareness of the impact of heart disease on families.

What can you do to minimize these stories from being part of your life? You need to understand the risk of heart disease and heart attacks. Some of thee risks can be eliminated or greatly reduced. Others can only be managed. That is the case of my family’s history of heart disease. It hangs over my head every day. I work hard to keep it at bay. The American Heart Association explains the risks in detail here.

Visit the American Heart Association to learn more.

Knowing your risk factors is the top bit of advice that I can share. You must also understand the signs of a heart attack. I was ignorant of many of these signs when I had my heart attack. My signs were not the traditional pain in the left arm and chest. The American Heart Association covers these risks in detail here.

Almost fifty years after my dad’s death and thirteen years after my heart attack, I find myself in the best health I have been during my life. I abused my body over the years. I should have learned from my father’s death and grief that I lived with for years. It’s never too late to change course. I suggest you take a serious look at your health, particularly in regards to heart health.

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  1. Ellen Staats February 13, 2019 at 12:37 pm

    Thanks for sharing Tom. My dad died of a massive MI Sept 12th 1979 at the age of 54 and a half. He knew he had problems but the company would not let him off to have tests without firing him. He died on the job. My brother dies of a massive MI August 14th 2005 he was 48. He had many health issues and was in recovery from Pancreatitis and kidney issues. I don’t go to the Dr often and right now I don’t have one as he retired but when I did go, he ran tests because of my family history and the fact that I had Rheumatic fever as a child. He was ecstatic with the lab results. I wasn’t. My cholesterol was higher than I would have liked but at 67 I am doing pretty good.

  2. Clay February 14, 2019 at 9:14 am

    Hi Tom I really enjoy your blog very informative. When you are in the area give me a call and we can do lunch and I will buy. Have a great day


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