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Roger Johnson is CardioSmart

Cardiac rehabilitation helped place Roger on the road to recovery after a massive heart attack.

Roger Johnson exercises four or five days a week and maintains a heart-healthy diet based off of what he learned in cardiac rehabilitation.

Never give up, because you never know how things are going to turn out.

Roger Johnson: Heart Attack patient

What is your CardioSmart story?

I don’t remember much of anything about July 31, 2013, or the days preceding it. I woke up six days later with a ventilator tube being removed from my throat and my pastor saying, “Roger, you’ve suffered a massive heart attack.” Others can tell the story better than I; they experienced it. What I have been told is that I woke up the morning of July 31 and went to a meeting at work. I am a mental health counselor, and one of the therapists told me, “You don’t look so good.” I said, “I don’t feel good; I think I’ll go see my doctor.” I made a doctor’s appointment and then called my wife. I told her I was having pains between my shoulder blades, pain under my armpit and felt awful. She asked if I was having a heart attack. I said, “No, I think I have food poisoning.”

At the doctor’s office, they did an EKG and I was told to stay in the waiting room or close by until they could interpret it. I did not follow that advice and left to go back to my office 30 miles away to get a phone number so I could cancel a therapy session. Back at work, I very vaguely remember talking to one of my clients in the hallway, and must have gone down the elevator at that point. I made it to the parking garage and slumped over in the elevator just as the door opened. A lady who was standing there ready to get on the elevator ran upstairs, told the building concierge to call 911, and went to find someone who knew CPR. Meanwhile, the concierge got someone to help her get the elevator upstairs. When they pulled me out of the elevator, I wasn’t breathing. Someone started CPR. The person on the 911 line was helping to count cadence as he worked on me. The firemen were there almost immediately, and the captain took over administering CPR. I was taken to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano where they inserted two stents in the back of my heart in my right coronary artery and a Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) pump. My heart stopped again at 1 a.m. My daughter timed it as one of the nurses performed CPR on me for 23 minutes and shocked me nine times. This is the second time I died and was brought back by CPR. The doctors held out little hope of recovery, and my wife was told to call in the family. I was moved to the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center where I had around-the-clock care in ICU and a team of five fantastic cardiologists. Once that ventilator was removed on Aug. 6, 2013, one week after my heart attack, the hard work began for me—recovery. I decided early on that I had been given a second chance at life. One of the doctors told me that less than 2% of the people who survive heart attacks like mine live without some kind of impairment. My physical therapist was a thorough taskmaster, and I was a weak but willing patient. My son and I set a goal that I would be out of the hospital by Aug. 15 and I was. I would be remiss if I did not mention that all of this, in my opinion, is a miracle from God. Without the support of friends and the members of my church, my family and I could not have made it through this. I believe in the power of prayer.

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

I started cardiac rehabilitation at Baylor Medical Center at Garland on Sept. 19, 2013. I worked hard at that and set goals for myself each and every day there. I attended the educational workshop on nutrition, heart health and stress. I was discharged two weeks earlier than projected. After being discharged from the hospital, my diet changed dramatically. While in Baylor’s cardiac rehab program, I learned about fats—the good and the bad—and I learned more about nutritional needs and caloric intake. Exercise has been a part of my life off and on, but now I know I have no other option. I have learned more about blood sugar and am more aware of the physiological effects of food on my energy levels, especially in the afternoons. I now eat food that is good for me, not simply food that tastes good. I am adjusting to the changes I have to make. I ask a lot of questions of my doctors and accept their input into my lifestyle changes. I use the “My Chart” program to send them questions on a regular basis, and I keep all of my follow-up appointments. This is a collaborative effort where we work together to achieve heart health.

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

I cut down on my salt intake. I satisfy most of my protein needs with plant nutrients. I am learning how to eat avocados and quinoa. I also eat tuna, salmon and lean pork or chicken and less red meat. I exercise four to five days a week. I ride my new Schwinn Airdyne and walk or cycle outdoors. I perform weight training once or twice a week. Weight loss is an elusive thing for me, but I stay at it daily. I lost 20 pounds in the hospital and I have lost 14 more since discharge. My goal is to be at 180 pounds by July 31, 2014, one year from the date of my heart attack. Another goal is to bike 50 miles of the “Hotter’N Hell 100” held every August in Wichita Falls, Texas.

I have also curtailed my workload. I worked six days a week, sometimes 12–14 hours a day then, always putting my clients first. Though I love my profession, working with an intricate population in the mental health field can be stressful at times. I know that the stress has lessened already which has helped me on the road to recovery.

Roger's Favorite CardioSmart Resources

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