BY AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS
Andy Trinidad was driving back to his office in Los Angeles just as rush hour was starting when he began to feel a crushing in his chest “like an elephant was stepping on me.” Next he felt a pain in his left arm. He immediately pulled over in a driveway and dialed 911.
He was only 39, but Trinidad thought of something he’d seen in an American Heart Association brochure he’d become familiar with during regular trips to his mother’s doctor’s appointments. The information detailed the signs and symptoms of a heart attack.
“It’s actually what made me make that phone call,” he said. “There was something about, if you have more than one of the recognized symptoms, that’s really when you need to stop what you’re doing and call 911.”
Good thing he did. After an ambulance rushed Trinidad to the hospital, a doctor performed a cardiac catheterization to see how his heart was working and found one of the arteries was 100 percent blocked. The doctor inserted a stent to restore the blood flow, and after a week in the hospital, Trinidad was on his way home and on to a new lifestyle.
“I got really lucky is what they were saying,” he said.
Trinidad, a longtime smoker whose two-pack-a-day habit had grown to three packs, quit cigarettes immediately. It has been almost 10 years since his heart attack in September 2006, and he still has to brush off the urge to smoke sometimes.
The 5-foot-7 information technology project manager also decided to become more active to do something about his weight, which was approaching 285 pounds.
“I started walking around more. The walking developed into longer walks, which turned into running,” he said. “Then I also started to get back into various other types of physical activity: martial arts, some exercise programs and so forth.”
After participating in the AHA’s Heart Walk in Pasadena, Trinidad signed up for Start Training, a team half-marathon training and fundraising program of the AHA for all levels and abilities.
“It’s like joining any other running club. They have a weekly running regimen and exercise regimen to make it so you can do a half-marathon. So when race day comes, you’re not struggling.”
From half-marathons, Trinidad graduated to full marathons.
“The last full marathon I ran was in Houston and that was my personal best,” he said of the race in January 2014, which he finished in 5 hours, 32 minutes.
But he had to take a break from running this past year to help care for his wife, who is battling breast cancer. He also suffered a foot injury but hopes to hit the pavement again soon.
Trinidad visits the cardiologist once a year and his primary care doctor about once a quarter. His medicine regimen has dropped from what he called the “alphabet soup” of prescriptions to taking baby aspirin and medicine to control both blood pressure and cholesterol.
Trinidad, who is of Filipino descent, shares his story when invited by the AHA and others such as a local Filipino channel.
“I’m a pretty big advocate for awareness in my community,” he said.
One of the messages he shares with all of his audiences is to get active.
“We need to really get out and move a lot more than we do. A lot of us are kind of trapped in the office, and we don’t get a chance to even stand,” he said, adding he often works with his keyboard propped on boxes so he can stand up. “It’s time to get off your you-know-what and move around for your health.”
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Photos courtesy of Andy Trinidad