Surviving and Thriving after a Heart AttackThe bitter cold wind swirling outside stung as her hot tears flowed freely down her face one January night 11 years ago. I don't want to lose my dad, she sobbed. Mary-Anne Scaturchio-Selwa was in the throes of despair. Her beloved father, with whom she's always had a profound relationship, "her rock", was in the emergency department. A heart attack. The words felt as intense to Scaturchio-Selwa's soul as the physical chest pain that her father later described to her: it felt very heavy, he said to her.
The truth, Scaturchio-Selwa admits, is that the experience was a complete blur. She remembers the phone ringing one late afternoon after she had come home from work. Come to the hospital, her mother urged, your father has had a heart attack. Resisting the need to drive maniacally to her destination, she arrived at the hospital's emergency centre and ran into her mother's arms. Her father wasn't in the emergency centre for very long as he was quickly transferred to the cardiac care unit (CCU). He remained in the CCU for 1-week. Scaturchio-Selwa says her father's life as he had known it, changed dramatically. A former smoker, he gave up smoking immediately and never looked back. New diet. New medications. New exercise regime. The ingredients for the recipe to ensure his survival for a new life.
Throughout the months that followed, Scaturchio-Selwa's father was in and out of the CCU as he had two more heart attacks following the January incident. Finally in May, despite his commitment to the drastic changes in lifestyle; intensive cardiac testing results showed severe blockage in the arteries. Consequently, her father underwent a quadruple coronary artery bypass graft surgery (CABG).
Once her father had recovered from the quadruple CABG, he then underwent a cardiac rehabilitation which involved education and counselling services to guide and assist him in his ongoing journey towards heart healthy living. Physical fitness and diet suggestions were a key focus in teaching him how to reduce and prevent the risk of future heart issues. Having been accustomed to eating what and as much as he pleased in the past, his diet change was a significant one.
As Scaturchio-Selwa looks back on what happened many years ago, she admits candidly that her father's trials and tribulations dealing with heart disease were scary. Triumphantly, however, he pulled through and not only survived but thrived. It wasn't his time to go, she says. She is incredibly grateful that he was able to witness the birth of his grandchildren and be able to play and show them the magnitude of his love, a love that she so deeply cherishes from the bottom of her heart.
Changing eating habits was critical for Scaturchio-Selwa's father in maintaining a healthy heart. Let's celebrate February's heart healthy month by trying the Heart and Stroke Foundation's Honey Peach Panna Cotta recipe that is not only delicious and entertaining-friendly, but will inspire you to start or continue your own heart healthy journey!
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Do you or a loved one suffer from heart disease? What lifestyle changes have helped contribute to your own heart health? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.