David Jones is an area manager for Goodwill, and sometimes his job requires that he drive to Tacoma for meetings. One Sunday, about four years ago, he did just that, heading out from his home in Yakima early, so he could be ready to go early Monday morning.
On the drive west, however, David didn’t feel well. “I thought it was indigestion, heartburn. And I was a little nauseous,” he says.
But David, 59, had a job to do. He attended the meeting and drove himself back to Yakima afterward. By this time, though, David was quite ill. “When I got home I was vomiting. I was white as a sheet, and I was in a cold sweat.”
David knew something was horribly wrong. His daughter called 911, but she couldn’t get through. All the circuits from her cell network provider were busy. David and his daughter began to panic. “We could have used my phone, but we weren’t thinking,” he says. “I drove myself in. I wouldn’t even let my daughter do it. But, I have to say, if you want service in the Emergency Department, go in there clutching your chest,” he says, finding a sliver of humor in the most frightening day of his life.
The result? Three days in the hospital. Two stents (installed by Dr. Thomas McLaughlin of the Yakima Heart Center). 99 percent blockage in the main artery. David had a heart attack.
“It really changes your life,” he says quietly over a cup of coffee. “Before this I used to think, how do I get more money in my 401K? How do I get a bigger boat? And afterward I thought, when was the last time I told my wife I love her?
“It changed my whole perspective.”
David’s two daughters and a Virginia Mason Memorial nurse, who was now off-duty, stayed with David until his wife, Lori, could get to the hospital.
“The key takeaway for me was life-changing,” he says.
David, a longtime heavy smoker, immediately quit cigarettes. It was also discovered that he was prediabetic. But, he said to himself, “that’s one pill I’m not going to take.” David and Lori, in support, started attending Virginia Mason Memorial’s year-long Diabetes Prevention Program. They learned how to calculate the fat grams, and to incorporate more fruit, vegetables and yogurt into their diet.
They got hooked on the program, and then became competitive in their quest for good health.
“We didn’t start exercising right away, but then we started going to the YMCA three or four times a week, working out on the treadmill, track and with weights. I lost 35 pounds, and my wife lost over 40!
“We swear by the Diabetes Prevention Program.
“What happened to me was a gift, because I had the classic widow-maker. If you’re anybody — man, woman — and you have symptoms, go to the Emergency Department.
“I had no pain in my arm, but it felt like a cramp in my chest. The doctor asked me when the pain started, and I told him, “About two weeks into Mariners season.” Then I was out, in full cardiac arrest. We joked that those would have been my final words.
“But that was four years ago.”