In 1964, Larry Sadwin was a senior at the University of Rhode Island. Early one Sunday morning, his mother called. Larry’s dad had suffered another heart attack. This time, he couldn't be saved. They buried him that afternoon, about eight years after burying his father, Louis, another victim of this horrible disease.
Having lost his father and grandfather to heart disease, Larry says, “I should've been more aware of my own heart health. I shouldn't have smoked three packs a day for 18 years. Just because I played a lot of tennis and looked healthy, I shouldn't have believed that proved I was healthy. I should've gotten routine physicals to find out.”
In 1982, what he thought was indigestion turned out to be a lack of blood getting to his heart, a condition called ischemia. It took all of 37 seconds on a treadmill for the cardiologist to recognize the severity of his condition.
So he smoked his last cigarette that day, changed his diet and began taking various medicines. He went through a cardiac rehabilitation program but it still wasn't enough.
In September 1984, after angina pains caused one too many ambulance rides to the hospital, Larry met a surgeon who said, "I will fix you." And he did, performing a triple bypass.
16 years later in 2001, Larry was chairman of the American Heart Association in Rhode Island, a passionate volunteer and advocate for cardiovascular health and education. But again, he needed medical care for his own heart disease -- several stents to clear blockages in other coronary arteries.
Larry remarks, “I joke that I've received happiness through chemistry and surgery. Yet, I really have had a front row seat on the evolution of care for heart patients over the years. The care I've received over the last three decades keeps getting better, giving me hope for the future.”
“Early in my journey as a heart patient, I realized that the American Heart Association was a driving force behind the progress,” Larry said. “The organization's commitment to research, awareness and education have saved and improved countless lives, including mine.”
“I've always felt we do a number of things very, very well for patients, such as being strong on prevention and a great resource of research information. But one area where we could improve was being there for patients and families right after an event and providing the soft touch they need -- offering a gentle, guiding hand that pats them on the back or points them in whatever direction they need to be pointed.”
That’s why Larry has been working on a special project with the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association over the last year, the Patient Support Network!
“While this is uniquely my story, many elements are all too common.” According to Larry, “That's why all of us survivors and caregivers need a place where we can get together. And in this day and age, a virtual gathering point only makes sense. The AHA Support Network can be whatever you need it to be. Take as much or as little as you want. Come for advice or a virtual shoulder to cry on. It's a club nobody wants to be part of, but we are, so we need to be there for each other; after all, we're the only ones who truly understand what we're going through.”
For more information on the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association’s Patient Support Network, visit www.heart.org/supportnetwork.