I Got Healthy for My Kids

Lee Silverman

"After my heart attack, I changed everything"
Lee Silverman; Scottsdale, Arizona

In August 2001, I was with my wife, Amy, and sons on vacation in New York. We had stopped at a store, and Amy had gone inside with Matthew, who was 3, while I stayed out in the parking lot with Jack, who was 1. I'd been struggling with terrible chest pain all week, which I thought was heartburn. All of a sudden, the pain was incredible, and I couldn't breathe. I fell down on the ground, and by the time Amy and Matthew came back, a crowd had gathered. It was awful. Jack, who was in his car seat, was screaming. I'd had a massive heart attack. When a blood clot went to my brain, I had a stroke on the way to the hospital.

I didn't know how sick I was. A few days later, I was complaining to a nurse. He got tough on me and pointed to pictures of my kids that my wife had set up around my bed. "See them? If you don't rest now and stop fussing, you're going to die. Your wife will remarry, and those boys will grow up calling someone else Daddy." That's when I realized how serious my condition was and that I needed to make major changes. In some ways, I'd always known I was at risk -- my dad had died of a heart attack when he was 43 and I was 18. I didn't smoke, but I was 40 pounds overweight. I ate pretty much whatever I wanted, worked crazy hours, and never exercised. I thought I was immortal.

I'm an insurance broker, and thanks to my family and some very understanding clients, I've realized that I don't have to put in 60-hour weeks at the office. Instead, I coach T-ball and soccer. I've had to focus a lot on improving my diet and getting more exercise, and I talk about it with the boys all the time. I bike ride 20 to 30 miles two or three days a week, and Amy helps me incorporate more walking into my everyday life. I am serious about this: I don't need to make more money. I want my sons to have me, and I want to have time with them.

Learn more: To size up your own family's risk, take the American Heart Association's "Learn and Live Quiz" at americanheart.org.

Copyright ? 2006. Reprinted with permission from the July 2006 issue of Parents magazine.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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