The Story Starts in August 2012
Duke’s Ocean Fest is a 10 day celebration of ocean sports, which is held in Waikiki, Hawaii every August. During this period, there are several competitions for surfing, swimming, beach volleyball and other local sports. The festival is in celebration of Duke Kahanamoku, who was the father of surfing in Hawaii and a great Olympic swimmer.
Last year, our friend Rob entered the Duke’s One Mile Ocean Swim. As an experienced swimmer, who had also been a competitive swimmer in his teens and early 20’s, Rob was confident about his ability to finish the race. He had also been training for the event for about 6 weeks.
The morning of the race, many friends and family cheered on Rob as he started the swim with another friend. The mood was upbeat with many competitors and spectators pumped about the event.
As we stood at the shore waiting for Rob’s finish, we scanned the ocean looking for him. With every bald head bobbing up, we thought, “Here comes Rob.” This went on for a while. Not knowing what Rob had estimated as his finish time, we chatted leisurely as we expected to see him any minute. However, Rob’s wife, Patrice, was getting anxious. Suddenly, there was a huge commotion and we realized that the lifeguard was rushing into shore pulling a backboard behind his jet ski. In the middle of his swim, Rob suffered cardiac arrest!
Once on shore, the lifeguards worked on Rob for what seemed to be an eternity. They managed to get a pulse after their repeated attempts. Rob was rushed to the hospital and the cardiac team put a stint into a major heart artery. The doctors were most concerned about how long Rob had been without proper blood flow and how that had affected his brain and other vital organs, so the first few days were touch and go. His body temperature had to be lowered for 36 hours to help preserve as many of the internal organs as possible. It was a difficult time for Patrice and Rob’s kids who all flew in to be with him.
Rob was lucky that the incident happened during the race as there were well qualified lifeguards able to respond to his needs immediately.
You might be thinking, “Is there a happy ending?” Yes, there is a great ending! Miraculously, Rob was released from the hospital after 1 week and over the last year has made significant changes to his lifestyle, with help from comprehensive rehabilitative therapy.
In December 2012
Rob has been back in Waikiki several times over the last year. When I first saw him in December, I didn’t recognize him. He had lost about 50 pounds and was looking great! He had made changes to his diet and was exercising more. He started to swim in the ocean again in December after getting approval from his doctor.
Prior to his “ocean adventure,” as Rob likes to call his heart attack, Rob was a busy entrepreneur who worked long hours, smoked cigars, ate when he had time through the day or drank coffee and coke instead, and gorged on dinner, snacks, and drinks when he got home in the evenings. He admitted that he ate from the minute he got home to the minute he went to bed. He loved smoking his cigars, having his Scotch and M&M’s while waiting for dinner to be ready! After dinner, he’d have toast and peanut butter before bedtime.
Rob felt like he was entitled to eat whatever he wanted. He never worried about his health as there was no history of cardiovascular disease or diabetes in his family, and he had no typical signs such as high blood pressure or high LDL cholesterol levels. The least of his concerns was suffering a heart attack as he thought he was active enough and ate reasonably well.
Fast Forward to August 2013
Since his ocean adventure, Rob and Patrice have learned much about healthy living and the risk of cardiovascular disease even when there is no family history.
Did you know that after the age of 55, the risk of cardiovascular disease increases for both men and women? When you tack on lifestyle habits such as smoking, eating a diet high in saturated fats, being overweight, and a high stress job, the risk of cardiovascular disease is even greater. (http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/hdw/atrisk.html)
Rob is a changed man. He has worked diligently over the last year to transform himself and his life, with help from his beautiful wife.
At 59, Rob has now decided that it’s time to slow down. Rob is making plans to work less and spend more time to enjoy life with his family and friends. The stress of accumulating more wealth is gone as he has decided that enough is enough. His focus now is on giving back to his community (and his life savers) as he works on a special project in Waikiki.
Rob has changed his diet to one high in vegetables and lower in protein, mainly consisting of seafood and some chicken. He occasionally has a glass of wine but typically does not drink alcohol. He has cut out all sodas and refined sugar from his diet. He admitted that he does not miss any of the indulgent foods he ate a year ago. He feels great and wants to enjoy life for many years to come. Of course, he quit smoking cigars right away!
Another big change in Rob’s lifestyle is exercise. He does something every day to be physically active. This summer in Waikiki, he would swim in the ocean to a point at the end of the beach about 40 minutes and then walk back to his starting point. In addition, he would walk everywhere he could instead of drive.
Rob’s discipline and sense of competition has taken him far on this road to recovery. He needed to do one more thing before he could feel that he had conquered the year.
On August 24, 2013, we cheered on Rob, once again, as he started his swim at the Duke’s One Mile Ocean Swim! This year Rob’s goal was to finish the race! He did better than that as he finished the race in 33 minutes and 49 seconds, a faster time than he had estimated. He was 39th of 57 men, aged 50 to 59 who competed this year. His time would have been faster if he hadn’t stopped at the shore to greet the lifeguard who was also cheering him on.
His attitude, commitment, discipline and spirit of Aloha are inspirational to many of us who seek to make our lives more healthy and more meaningful.
Mahalo, Rob, for your inspiration to live well every day!