Two weeks have passed since I underwent a major heart quadruple bypass operation, and obviously, I survived it as you read this piece.
And now that I have a lot of time on my hands, I started online searching on the matter. But even before that, in a chat with colleague Virgi Romano, I share the same fortune (but misfortune looks more appropriate) with former Filipino world boxing champions Rolando Bohol and Morris East, now relocated in Las Vegas in the United States for a long time.
Bohol, who once held the International Boxing Federation light flyweight crown in 1988, had his by pass operation in 2016, while Olongapo native East, a Fil-American, who had his fling with boxing glory when he emerged World Boxing Association’s youngest light welterweight in 1992, went under the knife mid last year.
So I can say I am in good company when it comes to what I just went through, with two boxing champions at that. But of course, the comparison ends with the fact that Bohol and East actually fought in the ring, while I was limited to writing about sports. It’s good all three of us survived to tell our stories.
Right now, I am undergoing a slow healing process in our house under the care of my family, but believe it or not, the day after I was discharged, I already started walking outside, averaging 3,500 hand-counted steps daily (oh yes, I still can count). It was my heart that was operated on, not my brain.
But my formal rehabilitation is ongoing at the cardio vascular gym at the Makati Medical Center, under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist and doctor. The results are all forwarded to my attending physician Dr. Paul Quetua, for monitoring.
Cardiac rehabilitation is a medically supervised progressive exercise program, which helps and guides patients to recover from heart attacks, bypass surgeries like my case, or other serious cardiac situations. Part of the program is continuing medical attention to achieve full recovery.
The place actually looks like an under-fitted fitness gym, which most people are familiar with, complete with all sorts of fitness machines, weights, etc. Where I go, I only see and use three machines, treadmill, stationary bike and stepping on ladder contraption.
On my second session, I met Dr. Adolfo Belosillo, head of the Cardiac Rehab Unit, and we certainly had a very interesting discussion. He explained that the ultimate objective for them is to present back to the community their patients in a normal as normal can be condition.
I asked him what are my chances of that and how long do I still have in this physical world of ours. The reply was that there are good chances, but anchored on a perpetual healthy lifestyle regime, but are also dependent on age, comorbidities, extent of damage on the heart, and of course, one’s lifestyle and diet.
Remember before this happened to me, I lived an active lifestyle, having been into running in my younger years, kayaking and mountain climbing/trekking, caving, even doing adventure team-building workshops in Mt. Banahaw, where I go regularly for summer to give school bags and supplies to indigent kids, same with an annual Christmas gift giving that goes back to maybe the last 18 years. I also do not smoke nor drink.
And so I thought I was a healthy senior with no maintenance medicines, only to find out that it was not enough, and I paid the price for not knowing.
This is where things got interesting for me and the good doctor. He cited that lack of awareness and education on the subject is one big factor for people being surprised, some fatally, that they have an existing heart condition.
On that premise, Dr. Belosillo established the Foundation for Lay Education on Heart Diseases in 2000, following a medical world congress here in the Philippines.
The Foundation’s objective is simple, educate the public more on the matter through public fora, seminars, symposiums, reaching out to the general public, including seniors, teachers, and government health workers, stopped only by the pandemic.
And you know what I did?
I volunteered my services as a testimonial speaker, believing what I went through in life and my background on sports, management, communications, and facilitating seminars, will help convince people that it is high time we took a second look on their current lifestyle, and make a change.
Of course, we need to get things back to normal before resuming the foundation’s activities, where I might get involved in the future.
That is the new role for me.
Now, excuse me but I need to go back to my rehab.
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