At age 50, Rick Lijana went to his doctor for what he described as “chest discomfort.”
“The doctor diagnosed me with GERD (acid reflux),” Rick says. “I was given medicine for heartburn and indigestion.” The diagnosis turned out to be a misdiagnosis. Rick suffered a heart attack a short while later. He received a stent after a balloon angioplasty was used to resolve the blockage.
A month later, the cardiologist detected other issues with Rick’s arteries, and a second stent was inserted through the same procedure. “At that point, I thought I was done,” Rick says. “I thought that they had found all of the blockages and that the two stents would resolve the issues.”
But Rick wasn’t so fortunate. He suffered a second heart attack just one month later. A third procedure resulted in two more stents being inserted into his arteries. “Over the course of three months, I suffered two heart attacks and had four stents inserted,” he says. “I felt very tired and very anxious.”
After a recuperation period, Rick began cardiac rehabilitation. The emphasis on physical rehabilitation did wonders for his physical condition. But, he was left feeling a need for more mental and emotional rehabilitation. “Even with the physical rehabilitation, I felt very anxious and strained,” he says. “I was afraid to eat. I lost fifteen pounds, and I was not overweight to begin with.”
It took time and work in order for Rick to build up the confidence needed to move forward. “I learned how hard it is to live,” he says. “It’s a challenge. But I also learned how much I wanted to live.”
Rick became very involved with the American Heart Association and United Way. He has organized fundraisers for the Go Red Campaign as well as other heart initiatives. “I enjoy helping others,” he explains. “I enjoy using my skill set to try and bring compassion to others who are suffering through some tough times.”
Rick emphasizes how important it has been to find ways to use his strengths on a daily basis. “Helping others makes me feel better,” he says. “It’s one of the ways I have used to overcome the mental and emotion strain of vulnerability.”
Ten years later, Rick still eats right, exercises, and lives a healthy lifestyle—mentally and physically.