From Ironman Athlete to Triple Bypass Patient Craig Hersch Shares His Story
I surprised my wife with a beautiful trip to HealthPark for our 30th wedding anniversary on Sept. 3, 2019.
slowing down and losing pace, I panicked and asked my law partner to call 911.
But as everyone’s attention began to focus on me, I was flushed with embarrassment. What if I was just struggling with anxiety or indigestion? Would the ambulance bill and the embarrassing looks from clients as I was wheeled out on a gurney be worth it? I shoved my fears away, canceled the request to call 911, and talked to my wife instead. She urged me to go to the ER, but I assured her I was fine. I was tough enough to get through a little panic attack. Wednesday evenings also happen to be my triathlon club’s swim practice. My problems from earlier that day raced out of my mind as I prepared for my element. I strapped into my gear and jumped in — only to be brought to a screeching halt 800 yards into the 3,000-yard set. The chest tightness was back. It was strike number three for the day, and my coach urged me to get to the hospital immediately. Instead, I went home, where my wife nearly pushed me out the door to the hospital. But first, I had to change out of my wet clothes and grab a handful of chicken on my way out the door. (Thankfully, we only live five minutes from the nearest hospital.) Once we arrived, I was immediately ushered back for testing. We learned that I hadn’t sustained a heart attack, and while that was a huge saving grace, it meant my priority status at the ER dropped low. We played the waiting game all night until I saw the cardiologist at 10 a.m. Thursday. After nearly a full day in the hospital and a litany of testing, my cardiologist, Dr. Jeff Rosen, said, “Craig, we have to talk.”What he told me next spun my entire world around. He explained that I had three arteries that were 75%, 80%, and 90% blocked. The one that was 75% blocked could kill me immediately if it were to fully clog.
Actually, I even surprised myself.
Just weeks before our anniversary, I was ignoring all the signs that something was wrong. I was a fit, 55-year-old athlete who had completed three Ironman competitions (a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and a 26.2-mile run — yes, all in one day!), nine half-Ironman challenges, 40 triathlons of varying distances, and two bike rides in Puerto Rico and Florida for a combined 660 miles, all within the past 10 years. To top it off, my wife is a dietician, and we usually eat healthy meals. But as I slowed down in the past few months, I ignored the instances of searing back and arm pain and blew off the consistent and increasingly frequent tightening in my chest; I chalked it all up to aging.
“It sucks to get old,” I thought.
Instead, I should have thought, “What is my body trying telling me?”
It all came to a head on Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019. That morning, I felt chest tightness again while circuit training. I took a break, and after the pain subsided, I finished the session, mentioning the pain to no one. At work later that day, my chest tightened again, I struggled to catch my breath, and a sharp pain radiated in my left jaw. For the first time since
I needed to have open heart triple bypass surgery, and I needed it as soon as possible. The surgery was scheduled for our anniversary the following
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Can You Feel the Love? The Secret to Living a Longer, Healthier Life
The human brain is an incredibly powerful organ. It solves complex problems, recalls forgotten memories, and triggers a dizzying array of emotions. But its most incredible power is the effect it can have on the rest of the body. When it comes to love, well, our brains certainly love it, and our bodies reflect that. Less Stress Human beings thrive on a sense of connection and belonging, and studies have shown that love actually has positive effects on a person’s physical health as well as mental. The security and commitment felt in a loving relationship are shown to reduce stress by stunting the production of cortisol, the body’s stress-inducing hormone. Less stress means lower blood pressure, a healthier heart, and a lower risk of stroke, especially in men. Healthier Immune Systems Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that calm, happy people can fight common colds and the flu more easily than those who are anxious F o r t h e L o v e o f This month’s cover story features the intense and difficult lesson Sheppard Law Firm’s Craig Hersch learned in 2019. If there’s one thing Craig hopes readers take away, it’s the value of regularly monitoring your heart health. Traditional tests can provide patients and their physicians with an idea of the heart’s health, but there is one test Craig did not have prior to his surgery that he wishes he had done. The cardiac calcium scoring test is a powerful tool your physician can use to determine your threat level for heart attacks and disease. The test includes a 20–30 second scan, and according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, the entire process can take up to just 15 minutes.
or depressed. The physical benefits of love even go as far as healing wounds quicker. Small injuries inflicted on a wide test group
at Ohio State University Medical Center healed nearly twice as fast on people who experienced consistent warmth and care than those who experienced hostility. In fact, the latter group needed almost a full additional day to achieve the same amount of healing as the first group. Longer, Happier Lives Being surrounded by love may even save your life. A statistic from the National Health Interview Survey states that single people face a 58% higher risk of mortality. Further bolstering that claim is the Harvard Health Blog, which claims happily married participants experience better health as they age when compared to peers in unhappy partnerships. In fact, the blog asserts, “People in stressful, unhappy marriages may be worse off than a single person who is surrounded by supportive and caring friends, family, and loved ones.” So, it seems the results are in: Loving someone is a healthy lifestyle choice. Even having a strong network of friends and family boosts your odds of living a long life by 50%. So, get out there and make the healthy choice for yourself and those around you by leading a life full of love.
The Cardiac Test That Could Save Your Life
arteries, clog the blood’s pathway, and make the heart work harder. The test measures plaque buildup in your arteries, and a score is then given based on your health risk. Your practitioner then helps you determine next steps based on your results.
Craig believes this test could have prevented his surgery or at least alerted him to possible signs of danger. He has been advocating for the test, especially for those with a history of heart disease in their family and regular symptoms of heart disease. Symptoms can vary betweenmen and women but often include shortness of breath, tight chest, jaw and armpain, fatigue, and nausea. For an old buddy of Craig’s, the test revealed that he needed life-saving changes.“One [friend] calledme fromAtlanta in tears [and said],‘I want to punch you, but I want to hug you. I want to punch you because youmade me so scared, but I want to hug you because I think you just savedmy life.’”
But it could be the most vital 15 minutes of your life.
Ideally, your arteries are clear, allowing your heart to pump oxygen-rich blood throughout your body without resistance. But plaque can build up in these
Learnmore about the cardiac calcium scoring test and other heart-health tests by calling your doctor. Don’t wait; schedule your test today.
Youth: The Fire of Life
Lessons From Growth That Nurture Your Soul
Craig Hersch’s story of battling heart disease (only to return stronger than ever!) after thriving as a 55-year-old triathlon runner has made a profound impact on our team. Below is a snippet from an article Craig wrote, which details just one of the many ripples his surgery has had on him and those around him. You can read the full article and other pearls of wisdom from Craig at SBSHLaw.com/blog. Young adulthood is odd by nature, nestled between childhood and maturity. Young people begin to experience the frustrations and yearnings of an adult but lack the experience and wisdom to deal with them. Young people aren’t looking for comfort; rather, they’re searching for a meaningful life. They overflow with a mixture of adrenaline and confidence and think, “I want to change the way the world works.” I’ll tell you, since my recent mid-life health scare, I’ve reassessed things. It’s easy to fall into the trap of nurturing our careers through nonstop work, and our physical needs with diet and exercise, but forgetting to nurture our souls. What’s our purpose? How shall we carry it out?
audience. For adults, the challenge is to turn that cry into a strong, sure voice. “Yes,”we must tell our young citizens, “take that energy and do try to change the world for the better. Don’t accept the status quo! Don’t tolerate injustice!”
Can we foster this in our estate plans? Surely we can!
There are several methods available to all, from establishing a private foundation to funding a donor-advised fund within an existing public or community foundation. As an example, assume you have a $1 million IRA account that you’d like your family to use to promote good in the world. You consume the IRA during life but then direct it to the foundation upon your death. If that IRA were cashed out to your children or grandchildren, almost half might be lost to federal and state income taxes, depending upon the rate of withdrawal and your beneficiaries’marginal tax brackets. If instead it was left to a qualified charitable entity where your family could direct charitable distributions, very little or none of it would be lost to taxes.
With all this in mind, how will your estate plan nourish your soul and those of your loved ones?
Thus, the sound of youthful rebellion is the sound of energy crying out, searching for an
Tuesday, Sept. 3, and I was sequestered to the hospital until then, with my heart ticking away like a little bomb.
I had a litany of cardiology tests done three years ago. The results showed I had the heart of a 35-year-old man, and this was a relief. After all, three out of my four grandparents had heart disease. But that didn’t make me immortal. There was further testing that, especially given my history and desire to stay fit, I should have gotten. I should have listened to what my body was telling me and recognized that my ability to bike hundreds of miles, skillfully swim, and run marathon distances didn’t exclude me from disease and death. I have always believed that difficult experiences make me stronger, and I know I’m a better person for having lived through this experience. But that’s the key. I did live, despite being just 25% away from dying instantly. Don’t be like me; let my story serve as your lesson. Your life may depend on it. – Craig and Mike
My mind flashed back to the past few weeks I had spent lifting boxes and moving my daughters. There were the workouts where I ignored my chest tightening and meetings where I fought through the pain. I was lucky to be alive, but instead of celebrating Labor Day weekend and whisking my wife to Italy for our anniversary, we were going to celebrate at HealthPark, toasting one another with ice chips and celebrating the gift of life. Today, I am back to full strength and have completely returned to work. My cardiac rehabilitation performance was off the charts. Dr. Rosen believed my training would make recovery easier, and he wasn’t wrong. I was back on the bike as of Jan. 1, and while I’m not back to the level of competing in a triathlon again, that’s okay for now. I still feel very strong.
More importantly, I learned a valuable lesson.
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INSIDE this issue
Learning Life’s Biggest Lesson on the Surgery Table..........................1 The Effects of Love on Your Physical Health..............2 The Life-Saving Value of the Cardiac Calcium Scoring Test..............................2
Craig’s Pearls: Nurturing Your Soul .................................3
Your Epic Adventure Awaits ......................................4
r e a t y t h i c a l O ne of the oldest stories in Trojan War. While Odysseus’ travels were fraught with mythical monsters and magic, many of the places he visited are said to be inspired by real islands in the Mediterranean. Even today, travelers flock to these islands looking for peace, adventure, and epic stories of their own. Sicily, Italy One of the most popular stories in “The Odyssey” is the tale of Odysseus rescuing his crew from Polyphemus, a man-eating Cyclops. It’s said that Polyphemus made his home on what is now modern-day Sicily. Fortunately, there are no Cyclopes in Sicily today; there are only cultural festivals, world-class golf courses, and delicious food. Western literature is Homer’s “The Odyssey.”This epic poem tells the story of Odysseus and his long journey home after the
Gozo, Malta While Odysseus’ journey was perilous, he did enjoy one peaceful stop. Odysseus spent seven years on the mythical island of Ogygia, home of the nymph Calypso. Historians suspect that
Ogygia was Gaudos, now modern-day Gozo, Malta. Gozo is home to the Ġgantija temples, which are older than the Egyptian pyramids. In addition to exploring its archeological marvels, Gozo’s visitors can also enjoy snorkeling, horseback riding, and other memorable adventures. Ithaca, Greece If you want to chart your own odyssey, make your final stop Odysseus’ home, the island of Ithaca. Covered in lush greenery and quaint villages, Ithaca is a wonderful place to relax at the end of your trip. Visitors can enjoy their morning coffee by a seaside cafe before lounging on a secluded beach for the rest of the day. It’s no wonder why Odysseus fought so hard to get back to Ithaca!
With dozens of other islands to explore, the Mediterranean is the perfect place to plan your own odyssey —minus the mythical monsters, of course.
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