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Tucson Opinion: Life lessons from (and for) the heart
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Tucson Opinion: Life lessons from (and for) the heart

The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer:

As an educator, I am always looking for life lessons from past experiences that will help change the way we think and act in a positive way. My family often criticizes me for my connection obsession. “Can’t we just we go on vacation without you pointing out how Disney washes and waxes every bus every night.” Here’s my latest “aha moment.”

In 1969, my dad suffered a massive heart attack while at his office preparing to go to the hospital for some tests. His secretary and paramedics helped save his life. He was in intensive care for about 30 days and wasn’t able to return to his law practice for about a year. About two years later, dad had coronary bypass surgery, cutting edge medicine at the time. My dad lived an active 20 years after his heart attack because of modern advances in treatment of cardiovascular disease.

Fast forward 50 years. Two weeks ago, I suffered cardiac arrest. My life was saved by my wife and daughter. Jolene administered CPR and Christina called 911 and received quick action from Golder Ranch paramedics. Upon arrival at the Oro Valley Hospital ER, the medical staff, including nurses and Dr. Chasin, immediately began treatment that included a medically induced cooling of my body to reduce brain injury. After three days in a coma, my cardiologist, Dr. Thai, determined I was stable enough for a stent procedure to address a 100% blockage in one of the arteries. After a week, I was released to go home and begin rehab.

As I reflect on the parallels between our heart attacks and treatment, I am struck by the similar lessons.

First, everyone should learn CPR. The American Heart Association has continued to expand their efforts in CPR education and I urge you to take a course to certify or recertify.

Next, we should continue to support medical research. Advances like stent procedures do not happen without financial backing from non-profit organizations such as the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Association. Consider a monetary gift to an organization that supports medical research.

Highly trained health care professionals were the key to both my dad’s and my survival and recovery. COVID-19 has greatly increased the risk health-care professionals face every day. We need to express our appreciation to health care professionals for the difference they are making in our lives. We also need to support local efforts to increase both the number and quality of health-care professionals graduating from programs. These include Pima JTED, Pima Community College, University of Arizona, Northern Arizona University and other medical training schools.

Obviously, I left out many details from our heart attack stories. Many of those details are difficult to write about because of the personal emotions triggered by the event. For example, after my dad’s heart attack, every ambulance I encountered anywhere close to my house created a little panic until I got home and found him safe.

The final lesson I want to leave you with is the critical importance family and friends are to your recovery from a health event. Positive emotional support can’t unblock an artery yet its healing power is equally important to a full recovery.

Nicholas Clement is a former Flowing Wells superintendent and currently the NAU Ernest W. McFarland Citizen’s chair in education at Northern Arizona University.

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