How My Dad’s Heart Attack Changed Me Forever
The year 2020 was a scary time for everyone…. but who knew it would involve a heart attack?
The pandemic was a time of change around the world where most people were consumed with navigating COVID-19. However, that wasn’t the case for me. The year 2020 was not just about a deadly virus and when or where to wear a mask. I will never forget that it was the year my dad had a massive heart attack and died for 9 minutes in front of my eyes.
As a result of this happening, my dad’s heart attack changed the way I now look after my own heart health. That is why I am telling my story.
I hope you learn something from my experience.
Looking back on my dad’s heart attack
My dad and I have always had a close relationship ever since I started racing dirt bikes at three years old in Canada. However, this particular weekend was one that I will never forget because of his heart attack. On July 12, 2020 my dad died for 9 minutes and I was there to witness the entire event. He had a massive heart attack unexpectedly and I was the one who saved his life by getting help right away.
I still remember how I felt when I heard my dad’s body collapse and crash into the TV in the trailer—and then drop on the floor. As soon as I heard my dad fall, I jumped up from the bed to see what had happened but there was no response.
I called my mom straight away because I didn’t know what to do. She was in Denver with my brother and said to get help right away.
After getting help and calling the motocross track’s EMTs, they frantically worked on my dad for 30 minutes before the ambulance got there. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. His eyes rolled back and he was not breathing—and the EMTs were yelling, “He has no pulse!” so as you can imagine, I was scared and didn’t know what to do.
That fateful day
They took my dad to the local hospital but they couldn’t admit him so he got flight for life to a bigger cardiac ward in Pueblo. When my mom arrived from Denver, my dad had just arrived in the helicopter and we didn’t know what was going on. I was scared of the worst outcome.
My dad went straight into surgery and had three stents put in his heart. He was then on life support for three days and my brother and I couldn’t go in the hospital because of COVID-19 restrictions. So, I didn’t think I’d ever see my dad alive again. But, thankfully, I did.
What happened after my dad’s heart attack
Before my dad’s heart attack, he had just finished his own motocross race and came into the air conditioning to cool off. I was relaxing on the bed waiting for my next race. We were at Lakeview MX track near La Junta, Colorado, which is a 4-hour drive away from home.
I remember how panicked I was at the sight of my own dad laying on the floor lifeless — and how my heart dropped because I love him so much.
Fortunately, my dad made it out of surgery OK and after seven days in hospital he was released to come home. However, he now has three stents in his heart. He was a fighter then and always will be. That particular event will stay in my mind forever; and I will always hold my memory close to my heart.
Today, I am so grateful to all of the emergency response people who helped save his life. I am also grateful for all of the amazing people who we are still in touch with today as a result.
Heart attack signs & symptoms
My dad’s massive heart attack happened at the age of fifty. He was considered healthy at the time. Unfortunately, this terrifying day is now etched in my mind forever. According to an article published by Harvard Medical School, the average age of men who experience heart attacks is over the age of 65, but more and more men in their 40s and 50s are having symptoms or cardiac events these days.
“In the U.S., the average age for a first heart attack in men is 65. That’s why coronary artery disease is labeled a disease of senior citizens. But as many as 4% to 10% of all heart attacks occur before age 45, and most of these strike men. It’s a reminder that men should not ignore warning symptoms just because they are “too young” to have heart disease. And since atherosclerosis can—and does—start in youth, it’s a reminder that prevention should start early in life before problems develop.”
My own heart health diagnosis
Even before my dad’s massive heart attack, I actually experienced heart issues which led to blacking out several times for no reason. At the age of 16, I was diagnosed with Aortic Valve Disease, which is when one of the three valves (or leaflets) in the heart is not working properly. This is one of the reasons why my mom and I have taken every precaution to look into my heart function; as well as my younger brother’s (he’s 13). It’s an important topic and has impacted us all in some way.
My mom also had a less severe heart attack at age 39—resulting in cardiac ablation surgery. She learned at the time that she was born with a congenital heart defect (electrical issue) called Paroxysmal Supraventricular Tachycardia, which is a type of abnormal heart rhythm a.k.a. arrhythmia. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine website, “PSVT occurs when a short circuit rhythm develops in the upper chamber of the heart. This results in a regular but rapid heartbeat that starts and stops abruptly.”
Today, my mom is an avid heart health advocate and heart attack survivor. This is one of the main reasons she started RedLily®. And, on-the-other-hand, continue to see a cardiologist regularly and try to live a healthy life as much as I can. You can learn more about my mom’s health journey in her book.
What I learned about heart attacks
To conclude, July 12, 2020 has made me realize the importance of family and looking after our health. I learned a lot about how precious life is, and I will always remember how I lost my dad that day.
But, I am so happy that he came back to us. As a result of this terrifying event, I have gone through my own personal struggles. Today, I understand why it is super important to look after my heart. I see a cardiologist regularly and try to live as healthy as possible. I also keep in mind something my mom once told me: Without our health we have nothing.
About the author:
Connor Stevenson is a professional motocross racer and college student in Colorado. Follow him on social media @c.dawg_11 and listen to his MX industry interviews on Apple Podcasts. Connor is also an athlete model with Naturally Fit Agency. For bookings visit @naturallyfitagency
Check out Connor’s official RedLily author page!
Works cited for this essay: Harvard Medical School, https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/premature-heart-disease “Premature Heart Disease,” December 15, 2019. Johns Hopkins Medicine, https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/paroxysmal-supraventricular-tachycardia “Paroxysmal Supraventricular Tachycardia (PSVT)” (no date published)