Mike Gilliam's second chance

Austin M.
Austin M. Davis
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Mike Gilliam rides a stationary bike at YaraCentre during the Cardiaction Exercise Program on Friday morning

Mike Gilliam was working with heavy equipment in Chaplin when he received a wakeup call.

“I’d been having chest pains for probably close to two years at the point, just on and off. But any time anything became painful or uncomfortable, I was usually able to settle my heart down,” Gilliam said.

“This one time when we were in Chaplin, it wouldn’t settle down.”

On Nov. 27, 2013, Gilliam had a heart attack while on the job. He went to the hospital in Herbert, only to have the doctor send him to Regina. The doctor rode with Gilliam in the ambulance to Regina.

Gilliam is 49 years old.

“When they did an angiogram, they noticed that I was really plugged up and they gave me the opportunity to either go for a bypass or put stents in,” Gilliam said. “I went ahead with the bypass and had a quadruple bypass.”

He had the surgery two days after his heart attack in Chaplin.

“It was a mild heart attack. I was coherent through it all. The pain wasn’t as strong as it had been at certain times, but I couldn’t catch my breath. I was taking a lot of short gasps,” Gilliam said.

“I just knew it was not good.”

For the two years he’d been experiencing chest pain, Gilliam said he would try to fool himself in to believing it was just heartburn.

“I didn’t always eat right and heartburn does seem to be an issue at times. In the back of your head, deep down, you know it’s not just heartburn. But you want to believe it,” Gilliam said.

“I knew I wasn’t the most healthy. When you can’t jog around two blocks without having to stop, that should’ve told me there.”

After recovering from his surgery, Gilliam was referred into the Five Hills Health Region’s Patient Education Centre’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Program. A component of that is the Cardiaction Exercise Program at YaraCentre three times a week.

Though he said the heart attack didn’t really scare him, it was the “huge wakeup call” he needed.

In the three months since, he’s quit smoking, adjusted his diet and exercises regularly.

“Now it feels good to do the exercise,” Gilliam said.

His family has a history of heart disease

“I had quite a few strikes against. I wasn’t eating healthy. My dad had his first heart attack at the age of 37. I had an aunt pass away at the age of 40 from a massive heart attack. These are the signs I should’ve been paying more attention to,” Gilliam said.

He said he listens to his body more, and doesn’t eat takeout food once a week anymore.

He’s eating fruits and vegetables at home like never before, and tries to keep his meat portions of each meal down to smaller than a deck of cards.

“I’m not denying myself of these things outright, but moderation is the key. If I decide to have a hamburger from one of the fast food places, I might have that maybe once a month, and I’m not saying that’s necessarily a healthy thing, but I’ve also been told by my doctor you have to reward yourself once in a while,” Gilliam said.

Gilliam said he has learned from his previous bad habits, and is looking at life now as a second opportunity to get healthy.

Geographic location: Chaplin, Regina, Herbert

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