Recognize the signs
I am so thankful to everyone who has taken the time to #sharepetersstory and watch the video created with Sproing Creative to help increase heart health awareness.
I want to share what Peter experienced because it was these signs that we were blind to and if others are in the same situation, I am hoping they make the decision to seek help and not push them aside.
I truly believe that Peter would still be alive today if we would have recognized the signs.
Peter was an active man who lived an active lifestyle from a young age into adulthood. With me being in the health industry he also didn’t have much of a choice, he had me pushing him to stay healthy. But we both had a mindset of steel. If you just stay healthy, you should be Okay.
It was this mindset that destroyed our “normal”.
It is this mindset that I want to change.
Peters warning signs were lingering longer than I originally thought.
Peter worked a 12 hour weekend shift at Tolko Industries and would come home exhausted. We would blame his long work hours. Before he passed away he would fall asleep after dinner and sleep right up until he went to bed. He complained many times that he just couldn't keep his eyes open. This exhaustion was something I wasn't used to. We weren't a couple who napped or slept during the day so for him to come home and be so exhausted was odd. But, instead of being concerned over his fatigue, we simply blamed the long work days. He was also starting to nap on days he didn’t work. My response would be “do something, get moving and you will feel better”.
Another sign that may seem odd but I believe should have been recognized was achy legs. His legs ached on many occasions and for months prior to his passing. He would complain of a deep ache that he just couldn't explain. I remember times I would think to myself that something wasn't right and if I mentioned to him that he should go to his doctor for a checkup. His answer would just be a laugh! "What am I going to tell them, that I have achy legs?" My answer would be "it's time you had a physical, you haven't been to the doctor in years". He just didn't see the necessity in it. How many other strong men feel the same way? If it isn’t broke, why fix it.
Peter was a mountain biker and the one who introduced me to it. We were both hooked. The summer prior to his passing he wasn't biking as much as normal and each time he did go, it would be a struggle for him. The ride would be so taxing that he didn’t enjoy going. The last ride we went on together, he complained how crappy he felt. We returned home and as unbelievable as this sounds, complained about how his chest ached. But it couldn’t be anything other than a hard ride. The fact that he needed to get back on his bike more often and get “back into shape” It really wasn’t anything to worry about. He was fine. He fell asleep after that ride. Again, he was exhausted.
Things were becoming more challenging for him to do. Running, mountain biking, hiking… they all just seemed so hard and that wasn’t normal for Peter.
His body was doing all it could to keep him alive.
But, at the time everything didn’t seem as clear as it does now. There was always an excuse or reason for everything. Our mentality was so much the opposite direction that any thought of heart disease was a laugh. It just wasn’t on our radar. The fact that he was a non-smoker, wasn’t obese and with 5 other siblings in the family, there was no family history. That makes a person look the other way!
The early morning that he passed away, he had returned from playing hockey. I didn’t realize until the next morning that he had made a bed in the living room to sleep. He obviously didn’t want to wake me up because he must have been dealing with severe heartburn and he NEVER got heartburn. I woke up to him just after 1am asking me if we had any Rolaids. All I could say was "no". I immediately fell back to sleep. Peter never got heartburn.
Within a couple hours later, he passed away. I woke up to what I thought was him having a bad dream.
Our children witnessed it.
I will now live the rest of my life with the anger and guilt of not seeing the importance of these red flags. How could we be so stupid!
This is one of the main reasons for this campaign of creating awareness! The tremendous anger and guilt of not realizing the signs, is driving this crusade. People must not blow off such signals! This could happen to any one of you reading this.
You may feel silly about seeing a doctor or making that hospital visit because of something you think is a mild concern. But in the end it could save your life! If you have a wife or husband, if you have children… if you have a family that cares so deeply about you please make the effort to realize we are not all made of stone!
Please do not make your life the next story!