Pensacola, Florida
Saturday December 16th 2017

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Outtakes—A Father’s Day Toast

By Rick Outzen

Weak hearts run in my family. Weak physically, not spiritually. My father and his father died of heart attacks before their 50th birthdays.

My dad died of a massive heart attack in April 1980 in Jackson, Miss., a little more than a month before he would have turned 50. The father of six children, ages 10-22, had battled weight problems and high blood pressure most of this adult life, but he had gotten both under control.

When he died, the doctors told us he had a “bad heart” but didn’t explain what that meant. They didn’t have the technology to understand what happened. Today we do.

Two years ago, my friend Kevin Mair insisted that I undergo tests to determine the condition of my heart. At the time, he was the director of Baptist’s Cardiology Consultants. He has since joined West Florida Health Care as its vice president of cardiovascular services.

Kevin set up the appointments and wouldn’t let me back out. The doctors found my left heart muscle was operating at about 45-pecent capacity, thanks to an electrocardiogram, which recorded my heart’s electrical activity.

I was put on medication and told to exercise and lose weight, which I did for a few months but stopped once I felt better. Stupid.

Last summer, we had another electrocardiogram done. My left heart muscle had dropped to 35-percent. More medications were prescribed. This time I got serious about my weight and lost 45 pounds.

My check-up in May showed I had successfully lowered my blood pressure and reduced any percentage of body fat. The EKG showed a slight murmur. I was the poster child for how diet and exercise can work. Then the electrocardiogram came back. My left heart muscle had dropped below 30-percent.

Dr. Ian Weisberg told me that it no longer was a question of whether I would have a heart attack. It was only a matter of when. He recommended that he install a biventricular implantable cardioverter defibrillator in my chest, which he did last week.  I went into Gulf Breeze Hospital at 6:30 a.m. and was home by noon. This weekend, I will enjoy my second Father’s Day as a grandfather with Gregory ‘Baby G’ Coady.

I regret that my father didn’t have the technology to save his heart. He never got to meet my daughters or his other grandchildren and great-grandchildren. But I know that all his efforts raising money for the Heart Fund saved millions of lives, including his oldest son’s.

Thanks, Pops.