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For Darrell, a heart attack led him to recovery at the Eat to Live Retreat

January 20, 2020 by Dr. Fuhrman Staff


Darrell was a retired physician who knew his unhealthy diet was killing him, but promised himself he’s eat right “someday.” But after suffering a heart attack and facing major surgery, he remembered reading about Dr. Fuhrman’s protocol for reversing heart disease with nutritional excellence. He booked a stay at the Eat to Live Retreat – and the experience changed his life. For more information about booking your stay at the ETL Retreat, call 949-432-6295. 

“My long love for the standard American diet has now changed. I still love food, just plant food.”

We were sitting down for dinner, celebrating all our August birthdays. I had been working in the heat all afternoon, and had not been drinking water. All of a sudden, I felt bad; nothing specific, just bad. But as we started to eat, I felt worse, experiencing substernal chest pain radiating up into my neck and jaw. It was the classic symptoms of a heart attack. I went to lie down, and drank lots of cool water, hoping it would resolve. After five minutes of resting, I had to admit to myself this was not going away. I got up and interrupted the meal. “Call 911,” I said. “I’m having a heart attack.”

For months, if not years, I knew my eating style was going to catch up to me. I was turning 61 years old, and that’s a long time to be eating anything and everything I desired. I loved food. My weight had crept up to 256 pounds, my knees hurt, my back was swaying forward, and I had a beach ball gut.  I had been telling my wife, “I have to stop eating this way, I feel like I’m eating myself to death.”  Additionally, my blood pressure had been creeping up over the years – 160’s/90’s.  So, almost every day, I told myself, “tomorrow, I’m going to start eating right.” As a retired physician, it was not a matter of knowledge.  I knew what to do, but my love of food was stronger than my knowledge.

After being diagnosed with a heart attack in the emergency room, I was sent for an angiogram. The resultant images were sobering: I had around 90% blockage in multiple coronary arteries.  And there 17 blockages – too many for stents.  My cardiologist recommended surgery: coronary artery bypass grafting. As I lay in the coronary care unit of our local hospital, I was terrified.  I’ve known many folks who’ve been through the surgery, and it seemed they were never the same afterward.  After all, the chest is sawed open to expose the heart for sewing in new vessels harvested from the legs.  And while they survived, they never seemed healthy.  Almost to a person, they all still seemed to progressively decline and eventually die of heart disease.

I had read some of Dr. Fuhrman’s books, including Eat to Live, and so knew of the data showing reversal of heart disease, not just amelioration of symptoms. My cardiologist was adamant that surgery was the best option for me. My hospitalist also encouraged surgery, especially when I discussed the alternative I was considering. Members of my family also pressured me to have surgery. So the pressure was mounting.

Nearing my decision, Dr. Fuhrman called me at the behest of my doctor sister-in-law. Dr. Fuhrman talked me down off the “surgery ledge.”  He shared with me his clinical experience with patients even more sick than I was. He had seen hundreds of patients get well without surgery. His calming voice was just what I needed to clear my mind and make a decision.

He invited me to his Eat to Live Retreat out in San Diego, California, where people could come to relax and eat fine, nutrient-dense, plant-based meals prepared by chefs. He would be there most of the time to watch me during my recovery. The retreat offered exercise classes, yoga, massage therapy, and psychotherapy.

While talking with Dr. Fuhrman on the phone, it dawned on me that the money I would spend for the retreat in San Diego would be about the same, if not less than my copay for the CABG, hospitalization, and rehab. At that point it was a no brainer. I was flying to California.

I was still quite afraid when I first arrived.  But Dr. Fuhrman examined me, took my medical history, and got me going with the program immediately. During my stay, I interacted with the chefs often, learning what and how to cook. Their meals were amazing. After a couple of weeks eating this way, I had already made the changes necessary to live a long, healthy life. My taste buds had changed, my weight was plunging, and my blood pressure had normalized. The need for medications was greatly diminished.  Every day I would wake up to beautiful sunshine and pleasant weather, eat delightful meals, lounge by the infinity swimming pool, and go for long leisurely walks in the nature preserve next-door. My exercise tolerance was increasing noticeably.

The retreat was such a great place to stay while getting over the initial shock of having a heart attack.  Everyone there had health issues, from cancer to diabetes to autoimmune disease. The support we gave each other was both comforting and enjoyable. 

Has change been easy? Actually, yes. When someone you love turns on you and tries to kill you, it changes your relationship with them.  My long love for the standard American diet has now changed.  I still love food, just plant food.  And my meals are as luxurious as ever, thanks to what Dr. Fuhrman and the chefs at Eat to Live Retreat taught me.

I’ve been home for 4 months now and my weight loss has continued. I lost 66 pounds in the last five months; I went from 256 to 190 pounds, and I am still losing weight each week. More importantly, I not only do not need heart surgery, but I need no medication anymore and I feel the best I have felt in the last 40 years. I was lucky – but I am also proud of myself for making the right decision and sticking with it. 

 
 

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Paulie57

01/22/2020 03:18 PM

Darrell, thank you for sharing such a powerfully person story about your own heart attack, a near-death experience that you were able to avoid thanks to the three "F's": Family, Friends, and Dr. Fuhrman!  

I think a lot of people are like you have described yourself, 'knowing' that your eating habits and overall lifestyle are harmful, knowing also what to do, but failing to make the essential changes necessary.  Fortunately for you you survivied your heart attack and took the steps necessary to turn things around.  I hope your recovery continues and that you continue to lose weight, clear out those clogged arteries and continue on the path of improving health and well-being!  And to anyone who also knows they have bad eating habits, chronic health conditions, and a deteriorating quality of life as a result, I urge them to consider to take all necessary steps to turn things around, possibly even attend one of Dr. Fuhrman's celebrated retreats like the one which has been so effective for you.  Health and best wishes to you and yours on your continuing journey!

 

franrn5

01/22/2020 04:42 PM

Very inspiring n uplifting!  Thx for posting this.  We attended a retreating CA in July of 2019 n my husband n I are both ready for a kick-start!  

jkrejci1

01/22/2020 05:42 PM

What a another great and inspiring story!  I absolutely love and continue to eat this way myself now on 10 and half months.  I have lost 35 pounds (currenly 157, my height is 5' 7and half and 61 years old), blood pressure today 125/70 mid day but has been 114/67 (1/18/20),116/65 (1/17/20) and 117/70 (1/16/20) over the last week.  I was 190/105 when I started this program.  Working out 6 days a week with weights and alternating 5.5 mile runs and one hour spin classes.  I am going to keep going!  Thank you Dr. Fuhman!

 

Marneyh

01/22/2020 05:50 PM

This is an amzing story. So glad that you made the change for yourself.

Wendy F.

01/22/2020 06:15 PM

This story reminds me of a good friend we have. Brian had quad by-pass over 10 years ago. He was a social studies teacher in a boarding school in our area. Him and his wife were standard American diet eaters. Well, we got them both started on the McDougall plan which we were doing at the time, and Brian began to lose weight and was looking good. BUT he didn't stick with it. They went to live at the school as dorm parents and went back to eating a typical SAD diet. Well, one day he was walking uphill at the school and began experiencing chest pains. Long story short, this was Wednesday and by Monday of the following week he was on the table getting quad by-pass. I went to visit him at the hospital and for his first meal after surgery, he was given--get this---pork roast with mashed potatoes and gravy! 

He was hospitalized for 1 week and his wife and I got him home. Naturally, I told him he needed to go back to eating plant based big time. He did for a while, but again it didn't stick. Unfortunately, today him and his wife are divorced. And guess what he's eating today? A Keto diet!! We haven't seen him in quite a while, and while we've learned he's lost about 38 pounds what's the cost here? A Keto diet is about the WORST thing for a heart patient! But you can't talk to him. We learned the hard way that by-pass patients are never the same after that kind of surgery. 

A year or two after we met these folks we introduced them to the nutritarian way of eating which I'd discovered because I kept seeing Dr. Fuhrman's name on Dr. McDougall's discussion board. After reading a few of Dr. Fuhrman's books, we switched plans. We did get these folks to try the nutritarian plan and they did it for a while, but again it didn't stick. How unfortunate. 

I congratulate Darrell because surgery would have been the easy way out. Get the surgery, go home and go back to eating what made you sick in the first place! Sure makes a lot of sense doesn't it? As I tell folks, things like heart disease can be reversed with the right eating plan. Way to go Darrell!! 

maliabakes

01/22/2020 08:51 PM

Congratulations on your wonderful sucess, and Life Style change....You look amazing!

Rosalie95

01/23/2020 09:15 AM

I am very happy for you.  Thanks for sharing your  inspiring story.

 

 

Mark G.

01/23/2020 11:51 AM

I would love to hear what your cardioligist thinks about your "natural" recovery.  

 

CarolynRH

01/23/2020 02:34 PM

Thank you for sharing and congrats on your life changes! I have been trying to get a family member to quit the SAD before he has a heart attack  but he keeps eating badly, especially fast food.  Your story reminded me that even when you know better, you can be so addicted to the SAD that you just cannot get up the strength or will to make the change. I will keep working on him.

PaulS

01/23/2020 03:28 PM

Congratulations, Darrell. about 13 years ago I had two blocked arteries and opted for the strict version of Dr. Fuhrman's program (6-week plan) and cleared out my arteries in 18 months. I'm still on the 6-week plan and going strong. The only medication I take is my food. You did the right thing.

babutlerhealth76

01/25/2020 06:41 PM

Congratulations on your success.  As a clinical nurse specialist I was nervous for you without surgery but so thrilled for you that you were able to go to this retreat and turn your life around.  I am on a similar journey and the effort is big but the results kind of slow.  Take care and thanks for the inspiration.  Barbara 

 

sweet

01/26/2020 04:47 AM

Congratulation on your amazing success. I hope you are proud of what you have achieved. Being able to go to Dr. Fuhrman’s retreat must have been an incredible experience. You are very fortunate on many levels. I wish you continued success with your journey, and vibrant health for you to enjoy.well done.