My OHSU Story - by Tom

Tom Mack - OHSU Knight Cardiovascular Institute StoryA year ago, I had just finished jogging with my daughter and she was driving me home in the car when I had a heart attack. I didn’t have any of the warning signs: I just slumped over. I was so fortunate to have my daughter with me (she was 15 years old at the time). She stayed calm enough to call 911 and flag down some bicyclists and a FedEx driver to help get me out of the car and lay me flat on the ground to perform CPR until the ambulance arrived to take me to OHSU with their amazing team.  If all that hadn’t happened, this story might have had a different ending.

I was later told my heart had stopped for something like seven minutes. After I’d recovered, they did a sonogram and we discovered that since I actually suffered a sudden cardiac arrest, I’d benefit from an ICD to help regulate my heart rhythm and avoid future problems, so I had one implanted. I felt a lot better taking that recommendation: I trust OHSU. I had my heart attack at 52 and my dad died of heart disease at 55. This technology, had it been around then—it might have saved him. Even though I’d been on Lipitor, and thought I did enough, being aware only does so much.

At first, when I had to go to cardiac rehab, I thought it was just going to be walking on a treadmill. But I spent a lot of time at OHSU Cardiac Rehabilitation with Brad and Trevor, and realized it’s far, far more. Exercise is part of it, clearly, but cardiac rehab at OHSU taught me about lifestyle, diet change and how to make healthier choices. That’s why it was successful. It wasn’t just “Do this 20 minutes a day and you’ll be fine.”

There’s a side benefit, too: My daughter and wife also changed their diets, and we’re all eating much healthier now. My heart attack has been a lot to deal with, but it turned out to be a very positive thing. I’ve lost 30 pounds and kept it off. I’m back at work full time and through I’m not yet jogging again, I hope to be soon. Also, I am so fortunate to have someone like my wife who could take over everything, so I could recover: I am truly blessed.

Right now, I go to OHSU every three months to have my ICD tested: They make it vibrate like a cell phone, which is kind of funny. Soon I’ll only need checkups every six months, then every year. I take medication too, but that’s just part of my routine and I’ve gotten used to it.

You think you understand heart disease, but there’s still so much you don’t know. That’s why having the right medical care, where they take the time to explain things, was important to my family and me.


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