Heart attack sufferer hopes Q-C heart walk raises awareness
May 1, 2011
Dave Deopere awoke one night to a pinpricking sensation in his jaw.
He had no idea it was because he was having a heart attack.
With no family history of heart disease and absolutely no other symptoms, he attributed the sting to tooth implants he received a year prior, but he couldn't get back to sleep.
He went to work the next day at the Robert Young Center for Community Mental Health, where he is president. Co-workers noticed he was a bit pale, and half-way joked that he was having a heart attack and suggested he see a doctor.
To satisfy them, he did. That's when blood tests confirmed it was the real deal.
By spreading his personal story, Mr. Deopere, from Rock Island, hopes to raise awareness about heart disease. He also was named an honorary co-chair of this year's Quad Cities Start! Heart Walk, which will be held May 21 in The District of Rock Island.
American Heart Association regional director Kate Cuellar said Start! is "our largest fundraiser and awareness raiser in the Quad-Cities."
Last year's event drew 2,200 people, Ms. Cuellar said, and this year, organizers expect between 2,500 and 3,000 people.
Ms. Cuellar said the event focuses not only on raising funds that go toward research but spreading heart health awareness as well. She said the AHA recognizes that heart health may require lifestyle changes, and the walk can serve as a place for people to receive the tools to do so.
The event also features a lifestyle change award. People can nominate friends and family members for the lifestyle changes they've made, whether they've started a walking program, stopped smoking or lost 100 pounds.
"We want the people that are there to see that small lifestyle changes can be as significant as the large ones," Ms. Cuellar said. "Even things like starting a walking plan will make a big difference."
Festivities for the heart walk will begin at 8 a.m. May 21, and the walk begins at 9 a.m. For more information and for how to join, visit quadcitiesheartwalk.org.
"It should be a great time," Ms. Cuellar said.
Mr. Deopere said he feels honored that he was asked to co-chair the event. "It's really an honor to be asked to do that," he said, adding that being the president of RYC, he has quite the passion for spreading awareness about mental health, and now heart health awareness is "kind of a new passion," too, he said.
Because his heart attack snuck up on him — and he had no other symptoms besides the pinpricking — Mr. Deopere encourages people to see their doctors to make sure everything is working OK. "You should have yourself checked," he said.
About a month after his heart attack, Mr. Deopere underwent a quintuple bypass. Two years later, he said he has lost 50 pounds, works out on the treadmill every day, and watches his fat and sodium intake.
"Heart disease is something that can be prevented, and can be treated very successfully," he said. "I think it's only going to be better if you consistently make those (lifestyle) changes."
By Laura Anderson Shaw, firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: Rock Island Argus/Dispatch