Katie A. describes her father as a walking miracle. She’s proud to join both her father and mother at their second High Street Hustle on Aug. 13.
At 52, Dan V. is the “young kid” in Salem Health’s cardiac rehab program. He credits the staff, camaraderie — even all the hazing he gets from the gym’s geezer crowd — with giving him the motivation to step on the treadmill.
Watching him work out and joke in the gym says it all — he’s made some lifelong friends.
“If you don’t show up, they’ll call you,” he laughs. Dan, who looks and talks like a picture of robust health, landed in the cardiac rehab program after a two-year odyssey of fighting incredible odds.
To start, he had unknowingly survived two heart attacks. The fact he rationalized his symptoms as “something else” made sense, however. He also has type 2 diabetes. He has no family history of heart disease, had an active lifestyle and was an exercise physiologist — even ran his own rehab center, treating high-profile athletes and performers for 13 years in Las Vegas.
But his 83-year-old father knew different. Still a practicing physician, Dan’s father talked him into getting tests after noticing he wasn’t himself.
Long story short: After a quintuple bypass, Dan spent 27 days in a Las Vegas hospital (eight days on a ventilator). He even went into cardiac arrest in the hospital — with an out-of-body experience he credits with bringing him back. “I remember levitating over myself; I could see a doctor doing chest compressions,” he says, “but what brought me back was seeing my wife in the hall, crying out, ‘don’t leave me!’”
But it almost gets worse.
After flying home with 50 percent of his heart function intact, he spent almost four days at Salem Health with a pulmonary embolism, probably caused by a blood clot resulting from the flight.
As a Salem Heart Center patient, between the rehab center and a local gym, he exercises every day. “You have to; I can’t bear the thought of undoing all the work they’ve done to my heart!” he says.
Dan’s goal is to shave two minutes off his High Street Hustle time last year. “This race is a real motivator, plus the proceeds help heart disease prevention and education, locally,” he says. “It’s not just about doing it this year. It’s about doing it forever. I hope to be around to walk this race in 2037.”
Join Dan and his family at the High Street Hustle on Aug. 13. They’re walking to help others with heart disease keep both feet on the ground. Deadline to enter is Aug. 10.