Sunday, October 22

I Would Be My Brother's Keeper

Tl;dr: My dad had a heart attack and my family is supporting him in his new diet. Each of us can support the people around us in the good they do.

I'm not really all that good of a guy. Sometimes I have aspirations of awesomeness, but most of the time I have literally no idea what I want to do, or even what I'm going to do tomorrow.

That said, I still have aspirations.

I still want to make a difference in the world.

I still want to do the right thing.

I still want to be a good guy.

Even in the moments where life seems overwhelming, I still want to be a good guy.

I don't know. I wanted to write a blog post today about learning to serve people - hence the brother's keeper title - and how identifying the skills and talents I have enables me to be a better servant. But suddenly I don't even know what I want to write about. I can't even keep a goal while writing a blog post. Ugh.

My dad was hospitalized for heart attack 10 days ago. He had experienced over a dozen mini heart attacks over the weeks prior, but since each time they went away (and since we in my family think we are superhuman/immortal), he hadn't gone to get anything checked. My younger sister is doing her clinical rotations in a cardiac ICU right now; she made an appointment for him and gave him the ultimatum that she would take him to the ER unless he went to see his doctor.

The doctor sent him to the ER. The ER sent him to ICU. When the cardiologist on call arrived, he went immediately in for surgery. In an angiogram, a catheter is threaded into an artery in the wrist, then slowly winds its way up to the heart. Dye is injected, which allows the surgeon to see blockages in arteries. There was enough plaque in his right arm/shoulder that the angiogram catheter had to be redone through his left wrist.

The surgeon found a 98% blockage in the main artery supplying blood to the heart, along with 3 other spots nearby along the same artery with 60-70% blocks. He placed two overlapping stents, which addressed the acute issue of a potential fatal heart attack.

But placing stents in a blocked heart is like putting bandaids on bleeding cancer. Yes. It fixes a problem. But it does nothing to address the real problem. The presence of what the surgeon called a "surprising" amount of plaque throughout his arteries was sign of massive progression of the whole-body illness that has affected almost all of my forebears. Heart problems - from low blood pressure to high blood pressure, from high cholesterol to arrhythmia to heart attack to stroke - have hit every side of my family.

I asked my dad last Sunday what his plans were. Diet? Nutrition? Health? He mentioned that the hospital was holding a course on post-heart-attack nutrition a few days later and he was planning to attend.

I scoffed. I honestly doubted a sponsored hospital lecture, at least one in Orem, would have the teeth to make a dent in heart disease.

So I grabbed three books from my personal library - three books I picked up a year ago when my younger brother had chest pain of his own - and handed them to my dad. And within an hour he had found a direction he felt passionate about following.

So my dad has changed his lifestyle: he is now vegan, and eats a no added sugar, no added oil, no nuts, low salt diet.


In a whirlwind of love and support, my family held a family council last Sunday, and each family member committed to doing their part to supporting dad in his new life. We'd fill the fridge and pantry with safe food (and keep anything else in a separate fridge), and every night one of us would make food that matched the diet.

It's been a week now, and our fridge and pantry are full of uber-healthy food. Pasta is still a simple family favorite, my little sister has decided that rice & beans will be her go-to for the near future, and morning oatmeal has become a regular thing.

My dad could probably find the willpower to do his diet alone. He wants to be alive. He wants to see his grandchildren and be a part of our lives, and he knows that choosing a healthy lifestyle will make a huge impact on his future. But having the support of his family will make all the difference in the world. All of us benefit from support and love from the people around us, and it makes me want to find ways to support the people I love in the good they do. 

This post is all over the place.

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