Keep this fact in mind: My dad never drank alcohol or smoked in his life. He never wore socks or carried an umbrella in the rain. In the coldest weather he never wore more than a light jacket and only started to wear a hat on his head in his late ’60s.
Still, I don’t recall him ever having a cold or missing work due to illness in over 30 years. With only an eighth grade education and a lifetime of hard work, my father did not believe in going to hospitals except to visit other people. His take on the medical profession was one of suspicion.
But one day, he called and told me he had fainted. Refusing to go to a doctor, he started suffering from shortness of breath. It took over a year for my mother to convince him to get checked out by a doctor. She went with him. The news was not good. Dad had about 90 percent blockage in four of his arteries! He needed heart stints and possibly more.
“No one is touching my heart!” he yelled.
“Mister Wright you could drop dead at any moment!” The doctor replied. “And so could you!” my dad said and walked out.
It took months before my mom finally convinced him to have the needed procedure. He was terrified. The day after their last visit to the doctor, Aug. 14, 2008, my mom died in a tragic house fire. The stress and sadness on our family was tremendous!
Dad decided to postpone the procedure and I could not talk him back into it. Shortly after that, someone stole his car. Angry, he resorted to walking. Where my father lived in Atlanta was a good two miles to a bus stop. If the bus was not there when he arrived he just kept walking.
Amazingly, Dad got better! His energy was up, he was feeling fine and he even went to see his cardiologist who prescribed him nitroglycerin tablets to place under his tongue since he kept postponing his surgery.
About six months after his car was stolen, the police actually found Dad’s car less than two miles from where he lived. Go figure! Now he’s driving again. But now he’s having trouble breathing again. Now he’s calling me, asking me what to do?
Between the doctor and I relentlessly reasoning with him, Dad finally agreed — again. The date was set for the procedure. I was set to be in Atlanta to accompany him. But the day before the procedure my dad called me and told me he was not having it! He yelled at any further reasoning and said he felt fine. End of story.
One week to the day after he canceled his appointment, Dad collapsed while going into a gas station. He even failed to carry his nitroglycerin tablets. He died before I could get on the road.
I am grateful to the thief who stole my father’s car because it bought him some precious time, gave us many chances to say ‘I love you’ and allowed us to draw even closer. But I know my father’s death was preventable had he chosen to listen to his doctors and overcome his fear.
Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death for men and women in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About every 25 seconds an American will have a heart attack. Some will die from one every 60 seconds.
In 2010, an estimated 785,000 Americans had a new coronary attack, and about 470,000 had a recurrent attack. But chances of developing coronary heart disease can be reduced by taking steps now to prevent and control factors that put people at greater risk.
What steps can you take? By eating a low-fat diet with more fruits and vegetables your heart will pump more efficiently, experts say. Maintaining a healthy weight by planning a sensible weight loss program with exercise and/or walking can work wonders.
Try managing your stress by learning how to relax and enjoy life, music, art, the great outdoors, prayer and wholesome association. Avoid tobacco products, drug abuse and only drink alcohol in moderation, if at all. It is also wise to check with your primary care physician on health issues.
As one doctor noted, it is not enough for a doctor to recommend. The patient must believe the recommendation and act on it. My father did not. As sad as his death due to clogged arteries and stubbornness was, I believe I will see my father again. I like to think my dad had a good heart. But God is our judge.
Still, this experience gives me second thought about the timeless wisdom found at Proverbs 4:23. “More than all else that is to be guarded, safeguard your heart, for out of it are the sources of life.” — New World Translation.
The New International Version says, “For everything you do flows from it.” Apply it literally. Apply it figuratively. But for your own sake and for the sake of all those who love you, take care of your heart.
*For a copy of The Little White Book of Light featuring more Wright Way columns, visit barnesandnoble.com, booksamillion.com and amazon.com.