Kernersville resident Bill Haps has undergone a drastic change over the past year resulting in a healthier lifestyle, thanks in no small part to a series of heart attacks he suffered last October.
Last week, Haps was recognized at the Bank of Oak Ridge as one of three winners of the American Heart Association’s Guilford Heart Ball Healthy Heart Challenge. The other two winners were Diana Lewis of High Point and Lee Schloss of Colfax.
Haps thought he was living a relatively healthy lifestyle. Even though he had been diagnosed with high cholesterol and elevated blood pressure, along with borderline type II diabetes, Haps managed his condition with medication. He was physically active, practiced good nutrition and balanced stress well.
An avid outdoorsman and active Scoutmaster for a local troop in Kernersville, Haps camped, hiked, backpacked, mountain biked and participated in other outdoor activities with his Scouts. He also participated in the same activities with his family and friends. He never considered that he was ever at risk for heart disease.
That all changed October 11, 2014 when Haps began experiencing shortness of breath on what should have been a simple walk from his house to his parents to wish his father a happy 75th birthday.
“On the walk up, I was a bit short of breath. It was a cold, damp night, so I thought I was just getting a cold or something insignificant,” Haps said.
Throughout the rest of the night, Haps said he woke up short of breath and feeling anxious with his blood pressure elevated. He told himself that he would go to an urgent care the next morning after church. What he didn’t know was that he was actually suffering from several small heart attacks.
In church waiting for mass to start, Haps said he had a “big” heart attack. Even then, he didn’t realize what it was. At Kernersville Medical Center, he was admitted to the ER and given aspirin and glycerin.
Things appeared to improve and Haps’ wife, Anne, sent the couple’s three children, ages 19, 17 and 14, home.
“The fifth and final heart attack came when I was in the ER,” Haps recalled.
He was rushed in an ambulance to Forsyth Medical Center.
In his essay to the Healthy Heart Challenge, Haps said for the first time in his life, he felt alone and truly scared.
“I was faced with my mortality which is a profoundly lonely experience. At that moment, in the ambulance, I let God know I can’t do this on my own,” Haps wrote.
Haps said he put it all in God’s hands and credits the peace and inner strength he received from that with his eventual recovery.
At Forsyth’s cardiac center, Haps was found to have blockages of 80 percent or worse in all four major arteries feeding his heart muscles. He was immediately scheduled for a quadruple bypass surgery the next morning.
The surgery went better than expected. Surgeons only had to do a triple bypass because they were able to open one artery with a catheter. The work of recovery started right there in the hospital, Haps said.
“I was told I had to do 10 laps around the cardiac wing before they would let me go home. By Thursday, I had completed 25 laps. At home, Haps walked in his neighborhood with the help of a walker. In December, he began a cardiac rehabilitation therapy at Forsyth.
The therapists there asked Haps what his goal was. Haps responded, “I want to run.”
That’s exactly what he was doing by February.
The success Haps had there spread out. He joined a beginner’s running class through the wellness program at his work.
“I haven’t run for exercise in over 20 years,” Haps said in his essay.
Last June, Haps ran his first 5K run, a culmination of the running class. He also signed up for a 5K mud run with his Scout Troop and works out two to three days a week at a local gym.
Haps’ family came on board, as well. They’ve all committed to living healthier lifestyles themselves, which includes cutting out processed foods like their father and motivating him to work out. Anne even attended Haps’ cardiac rehab therapy classes and learned just as much as her husband about maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
The lifestyle choices Haps is now making have made a difference. He has lost about 40 pounds and feels better overall.
“I noticed the changes right away. I have more energy – a lot more energy – and am getting better sleep. I am also a lot more aware of what’s going on with my body,” Haps said.
Haps’ transformation has been so impressive that he has begun to inspire others. His coworkers started asking questions when he would leave for lunch then return soaking wet. They’ve even started their own running teams, Haps said.
Ron Black, president and CEO of Bank of Oak Ridge, said the bank was proud to recognize Haps and his fellow 2015 Healthy Heart Challenge award winners.
“We are proud to recognize these three individuals who have made major changes in their lifestyles to prevent heart disease. Their stories are truly inspirational,” Black said.
The Healthy Heart Challenge was designed to recognize local men and women in the Triad who have made lifestyle changes to prevent heart disease and stroke. Heart disease is the No.1 killer of both men and women in the U.S., and stroke is a leading cause of death and permanent disability. However, 80 percent of heart disease and stroke incidents are preventable through heart-healthy lifestyle changes.
For more information on heart disease and stroke prevention, visit www.heart.org. To become involved with the American Heart Association’s Guilford Heart Ball, visit www.guilfordncheartball.ahaevents.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.