• Printer Friendly Version

Heart Attack Survivor

Gets Confidence to Run Again

One year after suffering a devastating heart attack that left him without a pulse for 31 minutes, 49-year-old Frank Holiday of Lusby is poised to run his first-ever marathon after completing the cardiac rehabilitation program at CalvertHealth Medical Center.

“The most important thing I learned in cardiac rehab is how resilient the body is,” said Holiday. “With the correct instruction, and a willingness to keep at it and not quit … it is amazing how your body can recover. I would never have believed it.”

The North Point High School welding teacher was playing basketball with some students when he collapsed last fall. Later he learned he suffered a heart attack known as a widow-maker, which is almost impossible to survive. But thanks to fast-thinking students and persistent teachers who performed CPR, he is around to tell his story.

"There were definitely warning signs."

“I had some shortness of breath and chest pain under exertion,” said Holiday, who has a small landscaping business. “I would walk up a hill and be gasping … it would be so tight. I chalked it up to age and being hot and humid.

“I was 48 … I would never have thought in a million years that something was cooking in there,” he said. Holiday was transported by ambulance to MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center in Clinton and then flown by helicopter to MedStar Washington Hospital Center, where he had double bypass surgery.

Statistics tell us there is a heart attack every 40 seconds in the U.S. It is the #1 killer of men and women. For this reason, it is important to know the warning signs and to take them seriously.

"They gave me the confidence to believe."

“I was at Washington Hospital Center for two weeks,” Holiday said. “I couldn’t walk for weeks afterward. Getting up off the couch to go to the coffeemaker was draining and depressing. “I thought cardiac rehab would be a great way to build a habit of exercising again and see what I could do,” he said. “I was actually looking forward to it.”

One of cardiac rehab’s main goals is to teach patients who have suffered a heart attack or heart surgery how to exercise safely and confidently so they will continue on their own after they leave the program.

“For me, the program was empowering and hugely informational,” Holiday said. “I learned a tremendous amount about how blood pressure works; oxygen saturation, what an EKG is tracking, how far you can push yourself and when you’re in the danger zone.”

"It is a revolutionary change in my lifestyle."

“The last time I ran, I was 21 years old,” he said during our interview in July. “Last month, I logged 127 miles, even with one week off for vacation. I do a 30-minute stretching routine, ab work, weights and calisthenics … then running and training for long distance.”

Holiday said he is filled with gratitude for the cardiac rehab team. “You can tell how much they genuinely care.” After completing the cardiac rehab program, he joined a local fitness center. “I had the habit built, so I wanted to keep it going. Now, I wake up at 4:30, work out from 5-6, drive to Waldorf for school and cut four to five lawns in the evening.”

He has made other changes, as well. “I am tracking calories. I’ve switched to a heart-healthy eating plan…I eat a lot more fruits and vegetables (and rice). I track my blood pressure daily, measure my oxygen. I pray every morning. I try to sleep 7-8 hours. I exercise every day and go to church on Sunday.”

He went on to add, “This type of event has the potential to wake you up to life. It has brought me to a razor-sharp focus to what is right in front of me. I know I am blessed and I am grateful. I live with the reality that it could be yanked away at any second. I live with this big, giant scar. It is a part of me.

“Don’t get lost in what-ifs. Ask yourself: Am I going to sit around and eat a bag of potato chips and watch TV or am I going to do something? There is no shortcut to running a marathon … it is one step after another.”

How to Recognize a Heart Attack

Some heart attacks are sudden and intense, but others start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort.

Pay attention to your body and call 911 if you experience:
  • Pain or discomfort in the chest
  • Lightheadedness, nausea or vomiting
  • Jaw, neck or back pain
  • Discomfort or pain in the shoulder
  • Shortness of breath
Symptoms can vary between men and women. The most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women may experience other symptoms that are typically less associated with heart attack, such as shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.

Even if you’re not sure it’s a heart attack, have it checked out.

Don’t hesitate to call 911.

Minutes matter. Fast action can save lives – maybe your own.

Learn more at: Heart.org/HeartAttack
back to top button