Gratitude for Life
By Ken Walker-
Although I have written more than 3,500 articles for various publications and web sites over the past 25-plus years, I rarely am the subject of a story. And since I did the interview during a hectic book editing deadline, I had almost forgotten that the latest issue of Energy Times was carrying a story on heart attacks.
Titled “After the Attack,” it begins, “Years of eating pizzas, steaks and hamburgers added up to excess pounds and yo-yo dieting for Ken Walker, 62, who ‘struggled mightily’ with his weight. A mild heart attack when he was 54 required two stents (small mesh tubes) to open blockages in a cardiac artery.
“But it took a double bypass several years later to finally get Walker to commit to a healthy lifestyle. ‘I recognized that if I didn’t make a dramatic change in my eating habits, another two and a half years later I might not be alive,’ says Walker, a freelance writer and editor in Huntington, West Virginia.” Read the whole article.
Grateful for Opportunity
The end of January marked the sixth anniversary of my surgery. Since the Dean Ornish program at the hospital where I had my surgery proved life-changing, I am still grateful for that opportunity.
One untold story about the program concerns how I managed to enroll. I had talked to my health care provider about it. Though they endorsed the idea, they weren’t willing to shell out thousands of dollars to pay for it.
A friend on staff at the hospital told me about a much cheaper alternative: classes that offered instruction in Ornish’s cooking methods. So one afternoon following cardiac rehab, I went to ask the coordinator about it.
Instead of outlining the classes, he told me that one of the insurance carriers who covered the program offered a scholarship each session.
“I have a patient who has been approved for it, but I don’t think he wants to give up smoking,” the coordinator said. “You can’t go through the program and still smoke. So, if you want to stop by the next time, I’ll give you an application.”
I did and…voila! I was in. Of course, when I met the teachers, school cooks, union electrician and other “ordinary” participants, I realized that—in a sense—we were all on scholarship.
The Need for Community
One strong element of the Ornish program that is emphasized in Rick Warren’s new Daniel Plan (which has made the New York Times bestseller list) is the need for community in supporting a healthy lifestyle.
For the first 12 weeks, it felt like going to a college class. Including travel time, the twice-weekly meetings required more than eight hours a week. Tracking everything that went into our mouths for daily food diaries took more, and quickly became a chore.
Without eight other people who were going through the same routine and their mutual encouragement, I don’t know if any of us could have stuck with it.
In the Daniel Plan chapter titled “Friends,” which mentions how Huntington has made strides to reduce obesity recent years, Warren writes, “(God) made you to thrive when you’re connected with others. Being engaged in your community will improve your health—and not just physically. Friends can improve your emotional and spiritual health.”
As one who is grateful just to be alive six years after getting cut open, I can say that truer words were never spoken.