I was born in 1944, the youngest of nine children. I lost my mother to a heart attack when I was 15. She had suffered a heart attack earlier when I was five. She lost weight on the advice of her doctor, but died when she was only 56. Since that time five siblings have also passed away, three of them in their 50’s due to heart problems, and two with cancer and diabetes in their early to mid-60’s. My wife, Linda, and our children gave a sigh of relief when I was still kicking on my 57th birthday! There are three siblings still living. My brother Ralph is 81. Hugh is 76. I am 71. We three have been more conscious of our health and exercised more than the others.
I have been exercising regularly since by days in the Marines. When I wasn’t exercising, I put on weight quite easily. I have been seeing a cardiologist since I was 50 years old. One day, I got light headed while playing racquetball with a co-worker, and Linda and I decided I needed to see a doctor. They took an MRI and found that I had an enlarged heart wall and muscle. So I stopped playing any sports that required me to start and stop, such as basketball, racquetball, and softball.
A few years ago, a couple of men who worked in the same BYU office as my wife Linda started eating a more plant-based. They suggested some reading, so Linda read some books and got some recipes. We went on a plant-based diet for 10 days. It was very difficult to prepare the food and get used to it, but my cholesterol went down 100 points in that short time. We then tried to incorporate the diet in a modified form into our lifestyle.
In the middle of June 2013, I woke up and felt sort of weird. I checked and discovered my pulse was near 80. I drank some water and went back to bed. I still could not sleep, so we decided to go to the hospital. I had a racing heart, and they kept me in the ER for a few hours and stabilized me. After more tests, they recommended installing a pacemaker. I wasn’t too excited about that, but after talking with the doctors I decided to go through with the procedure. All went well, and the pacemaker has been a blessing as it lets me know when I need to not push myself too hard.
Then in the spring of 2014, Linda and I found out about Jane Birch and her book Discovering the Word Of Wisdom. I was excited to read this book. It confirmed some of the feelings I had about eating fruits and vegetables in season and meat sparingly. With a stronger desire to eat healthier, we tried to implement whole food, plant-based eating into our diet and into our lives more fully. As we’ve done that, I have found new energy and wellbeing in my every day activities. We have had breaks from it, but we are eating much healthier, and we can feel the difference.
As it turns out, this difference saved my life! Let me tell you what happened.