On Having a Heart Attack


Life can change in the blink of an eye.

Or the beat of a struggling heart.

A week ago at this time, I was being wheeled from the emergency room into the heart catherization lab at Banner Heart Hospital in the middle of what a cardiologist described as a “massive heart attack.”

Believe me, it sucked.

Yes, it was excruciatingly painful. You know how a doctor will ask you, “On a scale of 1 to 10, what is your pain level”? I’ve had broken bones, debilitating migraines and a couple of surgeries. I always labeled those a “10”. The heart attack was more like a 27. The pain is intensified by an overwhelming dread running through your heart (literally and figuratively) and soul that you are about to die.

But that pain is temporary.

It’s the look on your wife and children’s faces that really hurts.

That is a look I will never, ever, forget.

I am blessed beyond words to have an amazing family, and a lot of wonderful and caring friends. I asked Francy to post a status update on my Facebook page as I was going into the cath lab to let my friends know and to ask for support and prayers.

The response was overwhelming. We cannot begin to express our thanks to everyone that reached out. It really did make a difference.

Many people have asked for “the story”, so here it is. Fair warning, I’m going to get a little preachy on you at the end. Deal with it, there may be some things said that could save your or a friend’s life.

“That Day”

I flew in to Phoenix from Seattle late Friday night. About 12:30am Saturday morning, I went to Jack in the Box (ironic, isn’t it?) and grabbed a typical meal — two tacos and a Jumbo Jack with cheese — which I snarfed down with a soda and went to bed about 2am.

Here was the last Tweet I sent before my heart attack:

Six hours later (note to self, you need to get more sleep) I woke up and felt fine. I plopped down in front of the computer like I do on any other morning and started looking at email, going through my feed reader and checking social media sites. Oh, what a thrilling life we lead.

Ten minutes or so into that, I felt a sharp stabbing pain right in the middle of my chest. Kind of cramp-like. Like a “stitch” you get in your side sometimes but this was right in the middle of my chest. “What the f**k?” I thought to myself. And then it was gone.

A couple of minutes later it happened again. And again.

Francy was out running errands and I called her to tell her I was having weird chest pains. She was on her way home and said I should wake up our daughter. We both thought it was most likely indigestion from the damn JITB tacos.

But this felt different.

Just moments later, it felt like Chuck Norris kicked me in the chest. I couldn’t take a deep breath. I couldn’t get up off the couch to get my daughter up. And then I started pouring sweat from every pore in my body.

I knew something was horribly wrong.

I called Francy back to tell her I was going to call 911 and she said to call them before I could get the words out.

I couldn’t even dial the phone right, so my daughter called them for me.

“911 what is your emergency?”

“I’m having really bad chest pains.”

“I’ve already got paramedics on the way…”

The 911 operator asked me a lot of questions. They were very calm and professional — which is good because at this point I’m pretty convinced that I’m dying, right in front of my baby girl. Francy arrived home moments before the firetruck got there. It felt like it took an eternity for them to arrive, but looking back and piecing together the timeline, they got there less than five minutes after we dialed 911.

From that point on, things were a blur. The pain was getting worse and worse. I remember the firemen / paramedics giving me oxygen, starting an EKG, putting nitro under my tongue, and putting in an IV. I remember getting annoyed because they couldn’t hear my answers because of the oxygen mask. I remember asking them if my wife and daughter were OK.

I remember thinking that I wasn’t going to make it to the hospital. The sense of impending doom was overwhelming.

Francy tells me the ambulance arrived and one of the firemen handed the driver the EKG strip and they glanced at it and ran outside to get the stretcher. She said when she saw that, she knew it was bad.

As I was wheeled past my wife and daughter, I told them I was going to be fine and not to worry. But to be perfectly honest, I thought to myself that I might not ever see them again.

The firemen loaded me in the ambulance and since Francy and Lauren weren’t there I asked them point blank, “Am I having a heart attack?” They aren’t doctors, and can only say, “We don’t know, but you have all the symptoms so we’re treating it like that.”

We only live about three miles from Banner Heart Hospital, but it felt like it took an eternity to get there. The firemen/paramedics were awesome though. At one point I apologized for repeatedly dropping the F-bomb when a wave of chest pain was particularly bad and one of the firemen responded, “Don’t fucking worry about it”. For whatever reason, that struck us both as funny. So did this exchange:

“We need to give you more nitro. Before we do, it’s important to know if you take Viagra or Cialis or anything for erectile dysfunction. It can interact with the nitro.”

“I may be dying, but I don’t need that stuff.”

“I think you’re going to be just fine.”

Once we got to the emergency room, things moved very quickly. There must have been 10 medical personnel in the room. I don’t remember much — lots of questions, at some point my wife and kids showed up. They were remarkably brave, but I suspect their fears were similar to mine. I distinctly recall some doctor looking me in the eye and saying, “You’re having a heart attack. We’re going to take you to the cath lab.” I kissed my wife and kids goodbye and was rushed into the cath lab. There I met my cardiologist for the first time, M. Joshua Berkowitz, M.D. He was very calm, very reassuring, but believe me, when he injected some dye to see if there were blockages in my coronary arteries and he looked me in the eye and said, “You are having a massive heart attack. You have one artery that is 100% blocked and another that is 95% blocked,” that will scare the shit out of you no matter how calm and confident the doctor is. Your fears aren’t relieved any by having the doc tell you that if you’d had the heart attack eight hours earlier on the plane, or waited another 20 minutes to call 911 you would be dead.

But that’s exactly the message I needed to hear because unless I make some significant lifestyle changes, the odds of me having a subsequent heart attack are high.

Dr. Berkowitz cleared the completely blocked artery via angioplasty and put in a stent, and opted to wait a couple of days to clear the one that was 95% blocked to allow the heart to recuperate some and for the kidneys to work on eliminating the dyes used in the procedure.

I won’t bore you with the details of the next four days in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit and the “Telemetry floor” (where your heart is monitored 24 x 7) other than to say the care I received at Banner Heart Hospital was world class. The nurses, staff and doctors were without fail caring, compassionate and professional.

During those four days, the support from my friends all across the country — those I’ve met personally and those I’ve only ever “met” on-line — was overwhelming. Believe me, it makes a big difference to know that people out there care about you. I wish I could personally thank each and every one of you. You were, and will continue to be, a big part of my recovery.

A Wake Up Call

I don’t want to sound over-dramatic, and I certainly don’t want anyone feeling sorry for me, but I think it’s important to say this…

I am lucky to be alive. Through the miracle of modern medicine I went from having chest pains and calling 911 to lying in the cardiac cath lab in under 90 minutes. Thank God for the Mesa Fire Department, the paramedics, nurses, hospital staff and doctors that literally saved my life.

That’s all well and good, but truth be told I brought a lot of this upon myself, and my family and friends.

I’m just 51 years old, but I don’t eat well, I don’t exercise, I’m overweight, my blood pressure is too high and my cholesterol levels are even higher. Back in my younger days I smoked like a chimney, quit smoking years ago then started back up as what I called a “casual smoker” or a “social smoker”. I claimed, “I’m not really a smoker. I smoke less than a pack a week. I go days without cigarettes.” Yeah, well that’s a load of bullshit. It’s like being a little bit pregnant. Or saying, “This double cheeseburger isn’t bad for me because it doesn’t have bacon on it.” (oh how I already miss bacon)

There is nothing I can do about the fact that my Grandfather died at the age of 42 from a heart attack, or that my father has an defibrillator implanted in his chest. But I damn sure can do something about every other risk factor.

And you can rest assured I will. It is past time to change my dietary habits, lose weight, exercise, get my blood pressure and cholesterol level under control and not smoke one cigarette or cigar again. Ever.

I don’t ever, EVER, want to have another heart attack. Selfishly, it is excruciatingly painful and staring death in the face really jacks with your head. Far more importantly than that though, it puts your friends and family through hell. I don’t ever want to do this to my kids, my wife, my family and my friends again. I’m going to do everything I can to no longer be a “walking heart attack waiting to happen” because sooner or later it will happen.

I also don’t want to be “that guy” and tell you how to live your life. That’s not my place. Who am I to tell you how to live? But I can share my experiences with you, share my successes and failures as I make some pretty radical lifestyle adjustments. Share what I learn along the way. I can encourage you to eat better, to loose weight, to stop smoking. You won’t hear me say things like, “Those cigarettes are going to kill you!” and “My God you’re clogging up your arteries with all that fat and sodium you eat!”  But you will hear me share what I can and do what I can to help my family and friends be healthier.

Trust me, you don’t want to have a heart attack. It BLOWS.

Learn these heart attack symptoms.  Remember, you may not experience every symptom. I had zero pain radiating into my arms, shoulder or jaw. DON’T SCREW AROUND if you have any of  these symptoms. If I’d waited just 20 more minutes to call 911, I’d be dead. If I’d waited 5 more minutes, I’d have more permanent heart damage. My cardiologist told me people die (usually men) every day because they wait too long to call 911. You can’t “tough out” a heart attack. You can’t will it away. Heck, I came *this* close to having my wife drive me to the ER. If we’d done that, we’d have missed out on all the medications the first responders can give you, missed out on the hospital having the EKG in their hands when I arrived. Missed out on crucial care in the first minutes of the heart attack. If you call 911 and it turns out you had indigestion or a panic attack, so what? At least you will be ALIVE.

And if you are like me — eating poorly, overweight, not exercising, pushing the blood pressure, have a lousy lipid profile (high cholesterol and triglycerides), or if you smoke at all, then please for the love of all things holy do something about it. If not for you, do it for your family and friends. You don’t have to go all vegan ultra-marathoner. Just start living healthier.

Sure, it may suck. Let’s face it, there is an awful lot to like about snarfing down two tacos and a Jumbo Jack at 2:00am and chasing it down with a cold sugary Coke or a frosty beer.

But there is a hell of a lot more to life than that. And I will gladly give up all the double-doubles on the planet for one more hug from my wife and kids. One more phone call or text or visit or email from a friend. One more day ALIVE and sharing all life really has to offer with friends and family…



  1. africankelli says

    Jay, I am crying as I read this because I can feel your fear, and that of your family. I’m sending this on to my family to read as well. We all need to take better care of ourselves. I am so proud of you for turning this into something positive. May your lifestyle changes be, well, just what the doctor ordered. 
    Much love from Colorado,
    Kelli (Elizabeth Newlin’s buddy)

  2. says

    I’m so glad you survived Jay! Let me know if you ever want to get together to eat salads or take a walk. Much love to you and your family.

  3. LynetteChapman says

    @PhxREguy Great blog post. Sending you the best of luck with your new, healthy lifestyle.

  4. KevinLKauffman says

    @PhxREguy great post Jay. Glad to know you’re doing well and getting better.

  5. says

    Your best days are ahead of you Jay. Sometimes it takes that realization that we’ve received a second chance at life, in order to bring on radical change. I’m looking forward to seeing all the awesome challenges you get to conquer, and accomplishments, yet to come. 

  6. says

    Man I’m so glad you are here to write this story. Just a few short years ago I had a good friend die of heart attack in his 40s. It’s serious stuff. So glad you survived it. And so glad you shared this message with everyone. I’ve recently taken steps to eat better, lose weight, and be healthier but there is so much more I could do. Thanks for sharing and thanks being alive.

  7. heatherelias says

    I know that you know this, but I’m going to say it again…I’m so glad you are going to be okay, and I love you. Thank God you called 911. I’m 100% behind you as you make the changes to take better care of yourself. It’s a wake up call for all of us. And just be forewarned, the next time I see you, you are going to get a huge, long hug from me. This world would be a much dimmer place if you weren’t in it, my friend. And your work here certainly isn’t done. 😉

  8. EileenWhiteKnode says

    Have been following your post for years, loved your honesty and have always respected your opinion, your ‘voice’ and your political incorrectness–in this too ‘correct’ world!  Thanks for sharing your life changing experience with us—and reminding us that life is short.  We need to take the time to avoid the drive thru, put life in social media and real estate on hold for our 1 hour of gym time (minimum every other day) and express our love and appreciation more to those who matter.  Very happy to be reading your posts and adding value to lots of lives!  You give a whole new perspective to the question, “How are you?”  Be well~

  9. ThesaChambers1 says

    I have walked a mile in your family’s shoes – my daughter then 9 did CPR on her father to keep him alive until an ambulance could reach him – I am glad you are ok… that you understand the fear those around you go through and the importance of making that call – too many wait 

  10. says

    Thank you, Jay. Thank you for sharing your story for those of us who need the kick in the butt. I’m so eternally thankful you are ok. It was such a long wait to hear the words that all was well. You had people across the nation sending prayers, thoughts, and hugs. You rock and I appreciate your willingness to share.

  11. OutdoorLori says

    I am so, so glad you shared this story. I hope it will be life-saving for someone.  Having had a couple near death experiences of my own the last few years, I can relate to much of the emotions you shared.  Yeah, it’s scary.
    However, I hate to correct you but I will.  Because this too might save someone’s life.  Actually a higher percentage of women die when they have a heart attack.  Mostly because their symptoms seem “milder.” They have a lower incidence of heart disease, but it still is the #1 killer of women. 
    From:  http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18563_162-57382268/study-heart-attacks-harder-to-detect-in-women/
    “A disturbing finding was that women experienced a higher mortality rate than men. The difference is even higher for those under age 55 without chest pain.’
    Heart disease runs in my family.  I have a mitral valve prolapse with pulmonary insufficiency. I’ve had a heart catheter.   Had a slight issue during pregnancy.  I have a few other “issues.”  I look perfectly normal. (Ok so I don’t act it a lot of times.)   But I am aware.  I am trying to make lifestyle changes.  I just ran my first 5K.  Yeah, I love to cook, but I am trying to cook healthier, and drink less.
    But I also want to raise awareness for my fellow women.  And their men need not POO-POO them if they have an issue.  Too often we sacrifice our own health to take care of others.  And don’t stand up for ourselves when we need to.  This is one issue, where men AND women really need to stand up for each other.  And take it seriously.  
    And unfortunately, having previously been in the health care industry, I have personally seen how women are often admonished for “just being stressed,” to see them return to the morgue hours later.  I can’t even tell you how that angered me.  It’s part of the reason why I left the industry.  Discrimination of any sort has no place in a hospital.  EVER!
    Again, thank you for sharing Jay.  And I hope you don’t mind me sharing a bit too.  I’m gonna go do some meditation now.  :)

  12. EdHudson says

    Jay, a frightening story, to say the least. How fortunate you are to have experienced this and lived to tell about it. My father died at the age of 51 from a massive coronary. He didn’t get a second chance.  I have worked hard to try and eat right, never smoked, exercise (but not enough) and am fortunate to have a wife who really looks after what I eat. We are expecting another child in August (my third, her first), and I want to live to see her have children, and I’m 57 now… so I have my work cut out for me, for sure!  But your story helps me to focus on the task at hand, knowing I have a lot of work to do, and we can never let our (health) guard down. I just lost a close uncle this morning to a stroke. He was only 68.  Life is tough… but we all need to stop and realize just how short it is, no matter how long we manage to cheat death. Thank you for the stark reminder!

    • Youssef says

      The first I did is hit ctrl + F and typed Smoke in the box. I don’t know you, but I was sure the you were a former smoker. I said former because you are no longer one. Good to head you doing OK because I need you to post more stuff about RE as I’m just about to start on this :)

  13. LauraMonroe says

    My words cannot describe the shear panic I had a few minutes after reading Francy’s status update that morning, and the worry until I knew you were as safe for the moment as you could be. That heart of yours is very special to me. Much more so than you might imagine. (and they guy that’s attached to it isn’t so bad either) I’m so glad that you were able to get help so quickly and had the loves of your life were near you, I can only imagine that the fear was as intense as the pain. I love you big guy, and will be here to support whatever lifestyle changes you need to make. Hugs to you and Francy and the kids Jay. Today is another reason to be so thankful. :) 

  14. linsey says

    Message given…and rec’d Jay.  We’ll be chatting, soon I hope.  So incredibly thankful you are on the mend.  You had us all damn worried.  Sending you and your family much love.

  15. mmranda66 says

    Jay,  Thank you for sharing your story.  You lived to tell about it and I guarantee your story will save lives.  I don’t know you personally, just through social media, but I do feel like I know you.  I followed along with you through posts and am so glad you are back and recovering.  Take care and good luck with the changes you are committed to making!  I look forward to reading more of your inspirational words moving forward.  God Bless!

  16. RuoffHomeMtg says

    Well said, Jay!  That’s a wake-up call if ever there has been one.  Wow.
    I’m guessing you’re looking for information and solutions.  There’s a movie you probably have already heard about, Jay.  I’m certain it saved my life 9 months ago.  Please, if you’re looking for answers, this is it:  “Forks Over Knives”  In 2 months:  High BP-gone.  High chol-gone. 35 lbs-gone.  Night sweats-gone. Food addiction-gone.  You are SUCH AN AMAZING GUY, as shown by the outpouring of love from all your friends.  Please, do us all a favor and watch the freaking movie.  
    God bless, Jay.  What an inspiration your new-found health will be to thousands!  

  17. JeffGingerich1 says

    Scary stuff Jay…so glad you pulled through! Thanks for sharing and best wishes for a full recovery.

  18. Guest11111 says

    Glad you made it. Now, read what I’m about to write closely. You need to go on a no-oil, plant-based diet. Dr. Caldwell Esselsytn and Dr. Dean Ornish ran two independent studies that showed real proof in halting and in some cases reversing heart disease through strict, plant-based nutrition. Go to heartattackproof.com for mor info. Good luck!

    • HeatherRankin says

       @Guest11111 Forks over Knives changed the lives of our whole family. Esselsytn Rocks!

  19. TheMadsenTeam says

    @PhxREguy SO glad to hear you are well – I’ve been following for few weeks moved to NC 24mo ago – continue to get better

  20. says

    Awesome post, Jay!  Preach it….all of us need to hear it and pay attention, if only to the “live intentionally” message you’ve just shared. 

  21. Mauibilly says

    Jay as always I am awed by your eloquence and candor.  When I saw the first status update from Francy I was pretty sure this thing wasn’t going to kill someone with a heart as big as yours.  Good luck with the changes I am sure you are already attacking with the vigor you seem to apply to everything.  We’re all looking forward to hearing from you for many years to come.

  22. says

    Praise God, and thank you for writing this…an important message for everyone. Life is a vapor, no one ever knows, you have a second chance and I am very happy for you and your family. 

  23. cyndeehaydon says

    Jay I am so glad you’are ok – for you and your family – your story resonated with me (unfortunately) too much – my father had early heart attack as did all on his side of the family and as I turn 50 I am way to close to fitting your description sans cigarettes. I am on that same path to reverse the odds – especially with boys who are only 10 and 15 😀 – I too need to remember we were meant to sleep more than 4hrs a night 😀 – I’ll be praying for you and your family and know you can do it – will also be on my own personal journey – starting with 5 days at the beach this week – you are inspiring others to live better lives – that’s so much more important than real estate my friend!

  24. says

    Thanks for the reminder Jay. This stuff is real and is scary. My dad had a bad heart attack and got VERY lucky to even survive – never mind make a full recovery. Reading this post made me very anxious. I don’t ever want anyone to feel the way I did during that time. 

  25. says

    Thanks for being so authentic Jay.  I haven’t met you but I’ve been following your blog and I am SO glad you are okay.  It’s a good reminder for us ALL to eat healthy, exercise and take care of ourselves.  My son is the pickiest eater (wants to live on chicken nuggets) so I make him green smoothies – he basically thinks all smoothies are green.  :)  I throw in a handful of raw spinach or kale, along with strawberries, bananas, etc. and he sucks it down.  Thanks for sharing your story. 

  26. says

    Jay- Glad to hear that you’re doing well after a week in the hospital. And also glad to hear that you received good care from the staff there. I currently work in the Cath Lab at Banner Heart (and worked in the CVICU there previously). Looking back, I was actually in the cath lab the day that you were there – there were two emergent heart attacks at the exact same time and I was with the other patient. You had a great group in the cath lab with you (Berk included). Best wishes for your cardiac health!
    -Amy Sellers (RN) :) 

  27. susanbaier says

    @PhxREguy I am so relieved you’ve survived, Jay. The world’s definitely a better place with you in it.

  28. says

    Just about a year ago I had my heart attack and the sequence of events pretty much mirrors yours. Looking back there were signs and symptoms occurring for weeks that I just shrugged off. Two days before the “event” (a Friday) I told my wife something was off and I was going to see the doctor that Monday, but found myself in the ER at 3AM instead. Fortunately mine was a mild heart attack; I was home in two days with my brand new stents and back to a full schedule within weeks. In the year that’s past, I have lost 20 pounds, reduced my cholesterol, and work out regularly. But there is one catch- the meds they give you can cause stomach problems. That is what happened to me last Christmas when I found myself back in the hospital with a bleeding ulcer. For me that was worse than the heart attack in terms of the pain and lengthy recovery. I am back on track now but my advice is to read the pamphlets that come with your meds and make sure your doc explains in detail how these drugs affect your system.

  29. says

    Glad you’re still with us brother. These ‘healthier living’ changes you talk about are important. Thanks so much for sharing.

  30. AZInspector says

    @PhxREguy it’s like the ghost of Christmas future has come to haunt me. I think it’s time for me to listen. Thx Jay. I’m glad u made it.

  31. Bob Peirce says

    WOW! Thank you, Jay, for writing so vividly about this incredible experience.  There are many solid messages in your epistle, but the best thing about it is that you survived to share the experience.  Wishing you all the best for a complete recovery…sans tacos!!!

  32. says

    Thank you for sharing your story in detail. I have shared this with several friends and one person is taking it very seriously. You have probably saved many lives with your experience and willingness to share it with others. 

  33. brokerbryant says

    Jay. Glad you decided to hand around awhile. Working out and eating right will change your life. And it will change it quickly. Find an exercise regiment that you enjoy and then just do it. It would help to meet with a dietician and a trainer to get you started. You can do it my friend.
    Thanks for sharing your story.

    • chriswhittaker says

      @TechSavvyLender I was heading down that path too. A lot of us are. Big lifestyle changes must happen, sometimes it takes an event. #vegan

      • TechSavvyLender says

        @chriswhittaker Ul never regret it, Chris. Changed everything in 9/2011. Can’t believe the diff! #forksoverknives!

  34. says

    Jay, Good that you come under medical care as quickly, my father passed away last summer after several heart attacks after not taking care of his health for many years, cigarettes, wine, bad diet and never exercise. Good to have you back.

  35. says

    Jay it is these moments in life that make us realize how much love surrounds us from family and friends. Wishing you a speedy recovery.

  36. AZLuxuryHomes says

    @peterfletcher @phxreguy Thanks for sharing such a powerful post. So happy all is (reasonably) well now & Jay is recovering!! Very scary.

  37. ReneeBurrows says

    I, like so many others, am very happy that you lived to tell the story!
    One thing that stuck in my mind and will haunt you for the rest of your life is the look in everyone’s face.  I went in to anaphylactic shock in 2005 and had blood pressure 60/40.  I came to conciousness as I was tossed in the ambulance and I will NEVER forget the look in my husband’s face – NEVER.
    When or if you are “falling off the wagon” with your new lifestyle just put that image back in your head.  It will certainly make you get back on the wagon quickly!

  38. HeatherRankin says

    Jay – First off ~ So VERY glad you are here to share the story, love your family, and keep a whole bunch of us ‘techie’ types informed and smiling!
    Second. My husband had a massive stroke (cerebral hemorrhage – brain bleed) at 47 years old. He survived and it took a bit to get all the guitar licks back, and the speech, but years later he is still kickin butt. That said… about ten year ago he all but cut animal protein out of his diet and started trying to talk to the rest of us. He also knew he did not want to see the “looks” again on the faces of those he loves and was scared half to death. Most of us since then have sort of been on the page…. “well, that is just dad…. he eats different than the rest of us.” He will have a BBQ meal once in a great while, or fish… but that is it.  He jokingly says he was weened on hamburger and has his lifetime quota by 15 :)
    About a year ago, my 27 year old son had a scare with a tumor in his neck. He is fine, got it removed, but looked at his two kids and wife and thought the same thing. Terrified.  He started researching and found “Forks Over Knives” a newer documentary, and Foods That Kill, an older documentary.  From there most of us, of which we are talking kids, grandkids, sisters, brothers, cousins, have started to make drastic changes. 
    While not advocating for anyone else, Forks over Knives has some seriously uplifting stories. People basically sent home to die, making changes and still kickin it 20 years later.  The CHINA study… which i had the book, but good hell had never read, is discussed and the author is one of main guys in the movie. 

  39. HeatherRankin says

    Jay – First off ~ So VERY glad you are here to share the story, love your family, and keep a whole bunch of us ‘techie’ types informed and smiling!
    Second. My husband had a massive stroke (cerebral hemorrhage – brain bleed) at 47 years old. He survived and it took a bit to get all the guitar licks back, and the speech, but years later he is still kickin butt. That said… about ten year ago he all but cut animal protein out of his diet and started trying to talk to the rest of us. He also knew he did not want to see the “looks” again on the faces of those he loves and was scared half to death. Most of us since then have sort of been on the page…. “well, that is just dad…. he eats different than the rest of us.” He will have a BBQ meal once in a great while, or fish… but that is it.  He jokingly says he was weened on hamburger and had his lifetime quota by 15 :)
    About a year ago, my 27 year old son had a scare with a tumor in his neck. He is fine, got it removed, but looked at his two kids and wife and thought the same thing. Terrified.  He started researching and found “Forks Over Knives” a newer documentary, and Foods That Kill, an older documentary.  From there most of us, of which we are talking kids, grandkids, sisters, brothers, cousins, have started to make drastic changes. 
    While not one to preach to anyone else, Forks over Knives has some seriously uplifting stories. People basically sent home to die, making changes and still kickin it 20 years later.  The CHINA study… which i had the book, but good hell had never read, is discussed and the author is one of main guys in the movie. Heart Disease being called “the paper tiger who has no teeth” intrigued me as well. 
    Both of these are online – Forks is available at NetFlix and on Hulu and Foods that Kill is on YouTube.  My life has so changed over the past year. Food cravings I had fought with my whole life are just gone. I have found I have a deep passion for Almond Milk and basically anything Kashi makes. Vegetable soup loaded with serious spices is as dopamine producing as any steak :) (have recipe- will share)
    You have our best wishes and support as you start the next phase of your life. Very thankful you did all the right things and are still kickin’  it !

      • HeatherRankin says

         @Jay Thompson  @HeatherRankin  I’ll post it here – if anyone else wants it i’ll send it email too :)
        1 Quart bottle tomatoes (i bottle my own but can used canned)
        I box Swanson Vegetable broth
        add spices
        1 t Cumin
        1 t Parsley flakes
        1 t Thyme
        1 t Rosemary 
        1 t Basil
        1/2 t Oregano
        1/2 t Celery seeds 
        Cook on low to medium heat covered
        Saute in EVOO (or water)  (for 15 minutes or so)
        3 carrots (put them in first and saute a bit before adding)
        3 stocks celery
        1 1/2 good sized onion
        2 cloves garlic
        Add above to soup base, low boil about 20 minutes then add
        1 zuichinni sliced
        1 chopped green pepper
        2 hand fulls of cleaned fresh green beans (chopped)
        (can of chick peas are great too – wash well before adding)
        Add several shakes of Worcestershire sauce to darken it up
        Then salt and pepper to taste and cook another 15 to 20 minutes
        Notes – We usually double this recipe. When doing so the saute takes longer with the double vegetables. Also left overs freeze very well in small containers and can be used for individual servings without being mushy. I don’t use hardly any salt in this. If some find they want more I let them add it but with all the spices, not necessary.  Serve with whole wheat crackers :)

    • says

       @HeatherRankin I hate to burst your bubble – Forks over knives is complete nonsense.   Its produced based on one of the most flawed studies (China Study) ever done.  There is nothing wrong with eating large amounts of locally sourced organic vegetables.  The issues are with a Vegan lifestyle and it does nothing to fix the issues that Jay is faced with.  You CAN NOT get optimized for cardiovascular health based on following a vegan diet – end of story!  If Jay or anyone else wants to read the truth see this blog post.  http://rawfoodsos.com/2010/07/07/the-china-study-fact-or-fallac/   Jay you have way to much to offer to the world to be lost way early in life – especially by following poor advice.  Odds are against anyone changing – the “Change or Die study found 90% of Cardiac patients when back to old lifestyle choice with dire results down the road.  Read the book “Change or Die” and you’ll see why community and support is key.

    • says

       @HeatherRankin  Sounds like you and others need to ‘question everything’ especially when you’ve bought into the nonsense that is noted above ‘I have a deep passion for Almond Milk and basically anything Kashi makes.’  Really… you may want to take a look at what is happening as grocers and consumers have learned about these poisonous products – http://marycrimmins.com/bad-kashi/  Kashi is disappearing fast from many shelves as its definitely not a healthy choice.  Now, I understand what you have a passion for it – its engineered to make you crave it and want more…

  40. mark poisson says

    thanks for sharing Jay, I’m glad you listened to yourself when you did and realized what was happening.  you are a very caring person and your role on this planet is no where near finished.
    I too had a similar experience earlier this year that I haven’t shared with anybody other than close family and friends.  I’m going to share this story with my peeps as it is so much more eloquent than I could have put it.  Looking forward to seeing you around soon, maybe at the gym.  :)  Well done Jay. 

  41. says

    Jay:  I was eagerly awaiting your response to my recent  “forced registration” question, but now I will settle for hearing of your rapid recovery!  We’ve never met, but we share some common background and some similar weaknesses.  I’m 51, my father and grandfather both dies of heart attacks (my dad at 53), I don’t exercise enough, etc.  Reading the details of this incident brings back some haunting memories for me, and I will use this as a much-needed wake up call.  I wish you the best!

  42. brendapostlong says

    What a scare!  We’re thankful that you’re still here, Jay!  Thanks for writing about the experience!  When something like this happens to anyone we know, it’s a good time to re-evaluate our own health, bad habits and addictions!  Praying you continue to get stronger and work hard for that healthy YOU!  

  43. says

    Jay, thank you for sharing that experience.  You will motivate many people with your account.  Glad to hear you are on the mend and embarking on a healthy lifestyle.  See you at the next conference.

  44. Sage Dillon says

    I am so glad that this is how the story turns out. That you were home and not alone. That you had the best first responders and doctors and nurses. That you made it. That I got to see you at BarCamp. That your family gets to see you every day. That you are still telling your stories.
    I took a car trip with my family this weekend, and as my two little ones slept in the back, I shared your tale with my husband so that we could brainstorm ways to make time for the dreaded E word–exercise. Thanks, Jay. 

  45. says

    Great post Jay and so glad you are still with us blogging away! I love the picture with your laptop and iPad. Classic Jay staying connected in the hospital. 

  46. SuzanneRoy says

    Thank you for sharing this, Jay.  I’m SO thrilled to hear of your lifestyle changes!  I’m quitting too!  So, Thank you!

  47. IJWphoto says

    @PhxREguy This was an amazing read – thank you for sharing. I’m thankful you made it through. Best of luck to you, good sir!

  48. nancyebain says

    So very glad to hear that you are okay. And proud to hear of your lifestyle changes. They say things happen for a reason. Here’s to the next and healthier half of your life. Cheers! (with carrot juice, lol)

  49. Connie2 says

    Beautifully written. We have yet to meet. I did pray for you, your family, friends and your medical team. I hope you all could feel that. Last year my husband had a medical emergency. People prayed with all their might! We could literally feel it. I am grateful my husband is well and here to day. I thought we had our lives in order, but when it got down to it… we could have done a lot better to be ready for the unthinkable. We are in our 50’s too. I think too young to face mortality, but I was wrong.love well. Be well!

  50. Malcolm Waring says

    Your detailed post about what to do just may save someone’s life, maybe mine.

  51. says

    > I will gladly give up… for one more hug from my wife and kids.
    A beautiful statement, and one that can apply to so many things. I’ve never heard of a dying person saying “I wish I had worked more; I wish I had spent less time with my family.”
    I know that there are so many who are glad you’re still with us, but I am especially happy for your family. You’re a good man Jay. Thanks for your encouragement and your example of love. All the best to you.

  52. says

    I didn’t even know, sir…. so glad to hear you’re OK, man.  This is an unbelievably honest and transparent post from someone I look up to…not just online stuff but in real life.
    Hope everything feels better in the next coming weeks…

  53. says

    I also know some people(doctors) that may give a second opinion in case you’d need one….=) PM me anytime…

  54. says

    Glad you are back writing, as you commented at RETSO that you “needed to write or you would… ” not exactly sure what you finished with? And I take back giving you a hard time in that “young guns” post.

    This is a great post, and I read this with great interest. Get well old man!

  55. says

    Man, I am so very Happy that you are ok! I don’t even know you or your family Jay, but I’m a devoted reader (lover) of your blog and feel as if we’ve been friends forever. I hope you now understand that just like putting in hard work to become a successful “anything” in life, it takes just as much hard work to remain a healthy individual. Eating right, exercising, watching your weight & controlling fat & cholesterol intake is not easy but…..the rewards are HUGE! Grabbing the fast food Taco or Hamburger (In -N- Out) is and has always been the easy & quick way out. You know what happens when we as humans try taking the easy and quick way out of anything? Generally nothing good! Jay, I am very happy you have survived what we in the medical field call the “WIDOW MAKER” and you shall move on, spend more days with your loving family, and continue to bring us (your friends & followers) more smiles. laughs, and interesting reads.

  56. says

    Thank you for your story because it is a wake up call. Nothing in this world really matters that much to lose your life over it. Especially when you have family. Thankful that God is with you and let you tell others of your experience. Prayers to you and your family. God Bless!!

  57. chrislee says

    Holy crap, Jay!!!! So glad you got through it and you’re doing ok. Definitely is a wake up call and I thank you for sharing it. I’d feel the same with my wife and kids. Started getting in shape a bit ago but this will definitely help me keep on with it when things get tough. Hope you are feeling better and best to your family!

  58. hardaway says

    I had no idea, Jay!  How awful it must have been. But OTOH, you lived, and learned. You will now become the nutrition freak that I am. My dad died at 57, and it taught me a huge lesson early in life.

  59. says

    Thanks so much everyone for the tremendous support. My family and I sincerely appreciate it. I would like to respond to each comment here individually, but things are a little crazy lately. Believe me, I read and appreciate every one.
    13 days after the heart attack and I’m doing great! Had a follow-up with the cardiologist a couple of days ago and he said everything looked really good. I’m eating MUCH better, no more closet cigs, and while I can’t really “work out” yet, I am walking daily, further and faster each day.

    • says

       @Jay Thompson just keep in mind when walking, to get the most out of it..take long breathes..inhale and exhale deep into your diaphragm. Also move your arms. You may look odd to others, but this is your health. Not theirs.

  60. eileenf says

    Hi Jay!  I just hit your site for the first time ever as you have a listing for my uncle and aunt’s place, who both did pass away recently, each way too young.  So hard to see the pics of the now empty home where so much love and life took place. I’m struggling too with making the time needed to stay healthy. Your story gives me hope.  Love your blog.  I’m in marketing and decided to check out your blog also just to help me in my social media research.  Hmm. Universe must be trying to tell me somethin’, eh?   

  61. says

    I went through a similar health issue 2 years ago. I ended up losing 150 lbs. and quit smoking entirely. Great story.and I am glad you made it out OK. The medical folks are amazing. Truly under appreciated in my honest opinion.

  62. says

    Jay – I run my brokerage out of our home. We have an exercise bike and a trampoline. I try to make use of these every day, and sometimes several times a day. I have a testimony that they reduce stress, keep your heart fit, and generally keep you happier. I’m sure it won’t be long before you become a diet and fitness guru. Best of luck in your recovery.

  63. zoe201015 says

    Jay it’s good hear you are doing better. The advice you’ve given is priceless. Your experience also scares the heck out of me. Here I am at about 3am with a 2 liter of soda on the table next to me and piles of hard candies I never gave up after quitting smoking. I eat horribly even though I make sure the kids have good meals. My idea of exercise is grocery shopping or walking all of 2 minutes to the corner to get a snack I shouldn’t have or more coffee I don’t need. I lost both of my parents before I was 20. I’m not saying I’ll change overnight, but jeez…I kept reading this thinking “this is me. I do all of this” maybe 4 hours of sleep, fast food, no exercise to speak of…” Thanks for this wake up call. I mean, you hear about people having heart attacks all the time, even people close to you IRl, but your experience mule kicked a little.

  64. says

    A timely reminder for all of us, thank you Jay. About a year and a half ago I had prostate cancer and the one lesson that has stuck with me is when the nurse said… ‘talk about it you may save some else’s life’… well for me that has proven true… so thanks for your article! Ric-orglearn

  65. StevenSmit1 says

    I promise i will put this story into my heart! Thank you for warning for us.

  66. Munchmore1 says

    @ptarkkonen @PhxREguy Thanx for sharing – sure its a wakeup call. I’m a x-hospital admin.& have seen on daily basis, yet its a wakeup call

  67. tru2psu says

    i will be 61 this summer – I witnessed my Dad having a heart attack 12 yrs ago and can relate to your blog.  I exercise, take a baby aspirin and try to eat right.   
    Good luck!

  68. says

    Dear Jay, Thank you so much for sharing this heart attack with us! I think that we need to adapt good eating habits, take regular up to five small healthy meals, drink lots of water each and every day, sleep between eight and nine hours a day, take one to two small pauses each hour and three to four exercises per week to avoid the risks of heart attack, I think! I’m glad you’re again with us and hope you’ll live a more balanced life style! I wish you and your family a happy and peaceful time! All the best, Lucas

  69. robertz says

    Glad you made it through, Jay. I lost my Dad to a heart attack so know the impact it has on everyone. Good post and a reminder to us all. Keep well!

  70. says

    Hey Jay, I’m glad to hear you’re OK.  Thanks for sharing your story.  I hope it will encourage others to live a healthier lifestyle.  I also hope it will encourage everyone who reads it to make the most of each day.  None of us knows if we will be here tomorrow – connect with God, reconcile broken relationships, make spend time with the ones you love.   

  71. says

    Wow. First of all, very glad to hear that you’re okay and that this might be the event that changes everything for you. Don’t forget about it, and use this post as a tool to refresh your mind if ever need be. Two, thank you for such a truly amazing ‘write-up’. I have a long path ahead of me in life still (hopefully), but the little choices along the way make all the difference.

  72. KingStreet says

    Holy crap Jay- what a moving story! Thank goodness you and your family are tight and you guys called 911 right away! Thanks a ton for sharing. Though I’m pretty health conscious, and don’t smoke, your story still reminds me that we never can predict what could happen, and we should be prepared! Very well written too Jay- you had me at the edge of my seat. Hope your doing good. It sincerely seems like it literally shook you to the bone, and your making some definitive life changes! Stay strong~
    Keep sharing…

  73. says

    You have me convinced! The part about seeing your kids and the paramedics not hearing your questions. That got me. Thanks to God you are here to tell the story and smack us, your fellow onliners, to get it together and start working it out. Thanks Jay.
    See you around

  74. moellering says

    Jay, I encourage you to read/watch Forks Over Knives.  I saw the film at a screening in Tempe a few months ago.  It is an entertaining documentary/story about a few meat eaters going through a conversion to a healthier lifestyle.  Perhaps after reading and/or watching it, you can post a review on this blog.  Info: http://www.forksoverknives.com/ , buy it: http://shop.forksoverknives.com/

    • moellering says

      You can also rent it for $4: http://www.youtube.com/movie?v=n1LUj3kxB9M&ob=av1n&feature=mv_sr

    • says

      Yes, great documentary!! It caused me to change my eating 3 weeks ago and I have already lost over 10 lbs.!! From 196 down to 183. All I did was increase veggies and fruit to 80% of my diet and cut down on portions. I will still each a “tasty” meal once or twice a week, but I really needed to change. Great article here! This would have been me. My dad had heart attack when he was 56. My cholesterol is high and I was overweight at 190.

  75. BeckyMcNeer says

    Wow, Jay, thank you so much for sharing this with us. That sounds terrifying. I am going to share with family. Glad you are ok. Take care of yourself.

  76. SimonMichaelRobinson says

    Thanks for your article, I’m 50, smoke, eat to much sugar, overweight and don’t exercise too much, time to change I know, but giving up those smokes is so hard!

  77. says

    Great story Jay. Very inspiring and well written (less the cussing;). I sent this to friends to share and inspire because it inspired me. I recently changed my habits 3 weeks ago as I started to feel scared after watching the documentary “Forks Over Knives”. This really solidified my thinking and will help me to be strong in maintaining my new lifestyle! Praise God for giving you another day to be with family and to seek his truth. Very glad you are alive and well! Sincerely… Dan Bryant

  78. says

    I’m so glad you’re OK! This is a great post to let people know what really happens and how much it really sucks. Thanks for informing people. I will definitely pass it along!

  79. Jeroen says

    Great to hear that you’re ok by now Jay. Thanks for sharing in this very personal and inspirational way. Shared your story in every way I can because I’m sure it will save other people’s life. All the best recovering, and getting into that changed lifestyle.

  80. says

    Geez, Jay! I just stumbled on to this post. I’m thrilled to hear that you’re coming out successfully on the other side. Thank you for taking the time to post your story. I only know you virtually and selfishly hoped as I read your story that you were 61 or any number of other things that I’m not, but you aren’t. Please know that this 50 year old overweight mother heard your message loud and clear. =-) Keep getting better and fitter!

  81. says

    Wow, glad you got through that.  Sending you love and a big hug!!  Hope I can learn some lessons from what you went through before it is my own story.

  82. JoanneGreco777 says

    Wow Jay – I’m so glad to see you’re feeling better. Thank you so much for sharing. I’m tagging my husband. billyakerman 

  83. JoanneGreco777 says

    Wow Jay – I’m so glad to see you’re feeling better. Thank you so much for sharing. I’m tagging my husband. billyakerman 

  84. tiffccs says

    Talk about a wake up call! I’m so very glad that you made it through. You’re story inspires me to stop putting off what I can do today because tomorrow truly isn’t promised. Thank you for sharing!!

  85. mgilstrap19 says

    So glad you are okay, my brother had two heart cath attacks before he changed. Both times, he got to the hospital in time with blocked arteries.  He has now changed how he eats and stopped smoking his pipe.
    That was almost 20 years ago and I’m sure glad he did. I try to watch what I eat, and take statin medication to help with my cholesterol.  I do feel all of what you shared is scary.  

  86. says

    As an EKG tech and my subsequent training as an echocardiographer, I fully understand. I’ve sat in on caths and also assisted with giving stress tests and watched a cardiologist shock a rhythm back into normal.
    Watching someone go pail and then gt flush with blood after getting a few hundred joules is amazing. Glad you made it out. 
    Get healthy and stop the dang smoking!!!..lol


Please see our blog / comment policy here.