Patient Stories

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David Wang is CardioSmart

A heart attack during a work event changed David Wang's life. After working with his cardiologist and cardiac rehab team, David now celebrates "the gift of perspective."

Deborah Flaherty-Kizer

After lifestyle changes and cardiac rehabilitation, David is back to taking and teaching karate and keeping up with his active family.

David poses along with his cardiac rehab team from Brigham and Women's/Massachusetts General Hospital.

I was in denial even though something major was going on—sweaty palms, numb fingertips and shortness of breath.

David Wang: Heart Attack patient

What is your CardioSmart story?

"How could this happen to me?" I reflected, remembering how hours ago I was trying my best to relax in a hotel room during a business trip with my employer, Covidien, a leading global health care products company. As a 40-something who gets to the gym regularly, with no family history of heart disease and a reasonably healthy lifestyle, heart problems were the last thing on my mind that September. "I must be having an allergic reaction or asthma attack," I texted my colleague from my hotel room before I had to go on stage for a company event.

Fifteen minutes later, as my symptoms worsened, the phone rang. It was Mike Tarnoff, my company's Chief Medical Officer, calling to check on me. "David, we are taking you to the ER at Tufts Medical Center." I was in denial even though something major was clearly going on—my palms were sweaty, my fingertips were numb and I had tremendous shortness of breath. Shortly thereafter I had the shock of my life when the ER doctor said, "Sir, you are having a heart attack!"

I texted my wife as they administered the medications that would keep me stable. Within 15 minutes, due to the miracles of modern medicine, I was told that I had a 100% blockage of one of my coronary arteries. They treated the blockage through a minimally-invasive procedure near my wrist which enhanced my recovery efforts. Needless to say, the whole experience was surreal and life-altering.

Today, my life is back online from that health scare. I am back to teaching and taking karate and helping my kids with their homework and fitness activities. Most of all, the heart attack has given me the gift of perspective: Life's most cherished moments are the days with our friends, family and loved ones ...and for that we are thankful.

How did you work with your doctors and care team on your journey back to health after a heart attack?

The doctors, physical therapists, nurses and nutritionists at the Brigham and Women's/Mass General Health Care Center worked with my family as a totally integrated team, whether by inviting my wife to learn about cardiac rehab or encouraging me to do my best during stress tests. We reviewed my food diary, exercise log and tracked my progress. Most of all, with the new friends I made at the clinic, I realized none of us are alone—we are in it together to make the world a heart-healthier place.

What lifestyle changes did you make to improve your heart health?

My family and friends are greatly supporting my improved heart-healthy habits, and I try my best to choose healthier alternatives at every juncture—in diet, exercise and maintaining a healthy outlook. My two elementary school-aged boys help Dad make heart-healthy choices at every meal. My fitness and karate instructors inspire me to do my best while working around any limitations, and my wife encourages me each and every day. Even my poker buddies are bringing heart-healthy snacks to every game!

Fortunately, my employer is extremely supportive of my heart health—giving me the time off work for cardiac rehab and making sure my health and wellness is a top priority. I have also taken a new role within the company which involves less travel and makes it easier to stick to my heart-healthy plan.

Most of all, I have made heart health my #1 priority. Not just the clinic and gym, but being mindful of making healthier choices all of the time.

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