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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

My Success Story Letter to the Engine 2 Staff

Dear Engine 2 Staff,

I've been waiting six months to tell you our success story.  I've been so excited about the changes in our life, I couldn't keep my typing fingers from flying on the Engine 2 Facebook page for months, but I never had a true success story to tell until today. 

In December 2012, I had a premonition that I needed to improve our family's diet, particularly mine.  I discovered Dr. Esselstyn's seminars on YouTube and made an immediate change to my diet. I bought both the Engine 2 book and Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease and started using the principles in both books in January 2013.

 Three years prior, we had been following the Eat to Live diet about 80%, but cheating on Friday nights when we went out on our date nights.  I would order an Eat to Live legal meal, and my husband would eat whatever sounded good...Afterall, it was just one meal.  I knew he had a family history of heart disease and I just prayed for him to stay healthy.  I had some hope that he would since he was following Eat to Live plan the rest of the week. 

I hesitate to mention the specific plan that we were eating prior to our change here but my efforts to not bring up ETL in prior conversations online, and explain to others what we were doing when my husband became ill, have created many misconceptions with others when talking to them on how moderation kills, even when we are eating a high nutrient vegetarian diet. 

In July of 2012, I had by that time lost 30 pounds following the Engine 2 plan.  My husband, on the other hand, was gaining weight and developed left arm tingling and fatigue, which he thought was post flu fatigue. He was still moderating on the animal products  one to two meals per week, but he read Engine 2 and was, at the time, starting to get excited about the diet and the exercise program which he started at that time.

By October 2012, he was complaining of chronic flu symptoms.  He was still moderating on the animal products, but about 90% plant based, eating peanut butter, and breads with oils in them, and salad dressing.  He developed right and left arm pain, sweating, and pain in his upper left chest by his left shoulder.  We finally got him into the doctor on October 16th.  He was scheduled for an angiography two days later which showed a 100% blocked right coronary artery with collateral circulation, and a left circumflex 99% blocked artery.  He was a heart attack waiting to happen.  (He never did have one, however)  At that time his cholesterol was in the 180's, with a dangerously low HDL of 28 and triglycerides in the 300's.  He is 49 years old.

 He was taken in immediately for an angiogram and stent placement on October 18th for the left circumflex artery.  They were unable to fix both arteries on the same day and scheduled a six week return for the second artery in December.  They then sent us home with still a 100% blocked right coronary artery. 

I e-mailed Jackie at and the next day Dr. Esselstyn called us and talked to my husband and taught him how to eat to protect what he had left and to protect himself for the weeks to come.  He drove home to us to be vigilant on sticking to every point of the diet 100%.....and to not cheat.

 His hope was that we would be able to avoid that second surgery, and that was our hope, as well.  I credit the diet with keeping him from having a heart attack those next six weeks, and during that time we went back and forth trying to decide whether to go ahead with opening up the 100% blocked artery or not, because my husband was feeling somewhat better and we had faith in the diet to reverse the condition.

We wanted to try and see if we could manage with the 100% blocked artery with just the diet, with no second stent placement, but in December when the chronic total occusion repair was scheduled, and after several sessions at cardiac rehab, it was decided that the disability of the 100% blockage was too difficult to live with due to the pain and disability he was experiencing.

We followed the diet strictly between the two heart procedures which I believe impacted the surgery which was estimated to be a five hour procedure and ended up being 30 minutes.

Now here is the success part of the story.  It is, I think unprecedented to have a cardiologist take a stent placement patient off of the cocktail of heart medications prescribed in the hospital.  However, our family has strictly eaten the low-fat plant based diet that Dr. Esselstyn recommends since October 18th 2012, and both my husband and I have gotten our cholesterol numbers checked every six weeks since then, having excellent numbers each time, mine just in the 150 range, and my husband between 88 and 131.

 My husband made a spreadsheet and recorded his numbers with each of those tests so that the cardiologist could see our commitment to our new lifestyle and the results of that lifestyle.  She was mightily impressed when we presented those numbers taken every six weeks to her today.  She said, "You are my only patient who has done this lifestyle change, and you are the only one that has had this type of change in numbers.  I think we can wean you off of your medications." 

So, today, I am happy to announce that this week my husband will be weaning off of his blood pressure medications, and in July he will be beginning the process to wean off of the Simvastatin, under his doctor's care.  I have to add, that I don't believe this is ever done, a heart patient being taken off of heart medications.  Usually, once put on them, they are put on for life.  We have told three doctors, two cardiologists, and one family medicine doctor, our plans to get off of the medications and they have said, "Can't be done."  

Today's consultation with his doctor and the results of that made us so shockingly happy!  He totally expected her to discount our test results and wishes, and expected a battle with her, but she saw that the need was no longer there for the medications.  We had to do our part to give her the scientific data through the numbers and spreadsheet, but she also was open enough to consider them.

Maybe we didn't feel brave enough to avoid the second procedure that happened after we received Dr. Esselstyn's counsel in October, but we have still maintained hope that continuing to follow the diet would produce results to reward our faith in this lifestyle change, and it has.  

This past Father's Day, the gratitude was definitely high for me as I realized that many gifted people, those cardiologist that are following my husband, and listening to us, and those who have given us guidance on eating for our optimal health, Rip, Dr. Esselstyn, Jeff Novick, Dr. John McDougall, specifically, have given my husband not only another Father's Day to celebrate, but in the words of our cardiologist, "many Father's Days to come!"  

In deep gratitude,

Debbie Hadden

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