September 9, 2002
A wake-up call for local survivor
by Deborah Stone
Cardiovascular disease, which includes heart disease and stroke, claims almost a million lives each year. That's more deaths than the next seven leading causes of death combined.
The American Heart Association has set a 2010 goal of reducing coronary heart disease, stoke and risk by 25 percent Ñ a goal that it plans to reach through funds raised to help support research and education, which hopefully will lead to possible new medical treatments and increased community awareness.
One of the fundraising methods the Heart Association uses is the American Heart Walk event. This year's event will be held Sept. 14 at 9 a.m., beginning at Everett Community College. Among the many individuals participating in the upcoming walk will be long-time Woodinville resident Jim Harvey, a "survivor."
Harvey's story begins years ago with family genetics. "I am genetically predisposed to having high cholesterol" explains Harvey. "It's been in my family for many years and I started seeing it appear in me when I was in my 20s. Then five years ago, when I was in my late 40s, I acquired type two diabetes. You combine those two things and you have big trouble, but I wasn't aware of any of this at the time because I had felt fine."
Over winter vacation of 2000, when Jim was on break from teaching school for the Everett School District, he began to have back pains and experienced bouts of nausea. He went in to get checked and was given an EKG and a stress test.
"I failed the stress test and the EKG showed that I had 20 blockages" comments Harvey. "What really shocked me was when they told me that I had actually experienced a heart attack sometime in the past, unbeknownst to me. The kind of attack I had is called a 'widowmaker' and it's when a certain area is 100 percent blocked.
"About 25 percent of people who have this type of attack die from it on the spot. I obviously got lucky because I didn't suffer much muscle damage, which is the crucial thing in a situation like this."
In February 2001 Harvey had a triple bypass, where they opened up numerous blockages, leading to increased blood flow to his heart. He was in and out of the hospital in two and a half days, took two months for his recovery time and was back in his classroom by springtime. "I was fortunate to have had surgery while I was in pretty good physical shape, plus my age was a plus," says Harvey. "Nowadays, this type of procedure is standard and routine and they get you up and moving fairly soon after the surgery."
Since then,Harvey has been exercising more, taking medications for his cholesterol, watching his diabetes and being more aware of his body. He comments: "I now know that the warning signs for cardiac problems can include nausea and back, shoulder or neck pain, in addition to the more traditional signs of chest pain or pressure. I really don't think many people are aware of all the signs. I know I wasn't."
Last spring Harvey was asked to speak to the kids at his school about heart health during an assembly given by the Heart Association for its jump rope fundraiser. He was joined by his student, Josh Taylor, another cardiac survivor.
"Josh was born with only half of his heart," explains Harvey. "His heart wasn't formed completely and it wasn't functioning well. Over the years he has had numerous surgeries and a pacemaker. He's a true survivor and an amazing kid."
Soon after the event Jim and Josh were both contacted by the Snohomish chapter of the American Heart Association to be poster people for the 2002 American Heart Walk. Their pictures are now featured on the event's brochures and posters. "All this happened pretty quickly," says Harvey. "I consider it a privilege to have my picture with Josh because I look at him as the true survivor and someone who has been fighting every day of his life."
Harvey looks forward to participating in the upcoming walk and encourages others to walk with him and Josh. He says, "The money raised will save lives. I know that without such donations, Josh and I wouldn't be survivors."
For information about the 2002 American Heart Walk, call (206) 525-7665 or 888-440-2328.