Minnesota Man with Coronary Artery Disease wins ‘I am CardioSmart’ Contest

Gerry Yumul’s health scare leads to a change in lifestyle

Contact: Rachel Cagan, rcagan@acc.org, 202-375-6395

WASHINGTON (Feb 02, 2015) -

When Gerry Yumul took a position in Marketing and Communications for a non-profit cardiovascular research foundation, he never thought the knowledge he would gain on the job would soon be important in making a decision about his own health. That is, until he starting feeling discomfort in his chest.

Yumul, a Coronary Artery Disease patient from Victoria, Minnesota, was named by members of the cardiovascular care community as the winner of the third annual American College of Cardiology “I am CardioSmart” contest, which is conducted through the ACC’s CardioSmart patient initiative to find people living well with heart disease and showcase their stories to inspire other patients.

Yumul was having a busy month at his job at the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation. It was February, which is American Heart Month, and he thought the discomfort he was feeling was due to stress and hoped his regular exercise routine would help to reduce it. A series of events, culminating in Yumul fainting in a dentist chair after a Novocain injection, led him to urgent care where he was given an ECG and advised to see a cardiologist. His doctor recommended an angiogram, but Yumul was feeling fine that day and was hesitant to undergo a major procedure.

“After the office visit, I was concerned Gerry did not understand the seriousness of his condition. Fortunately, he followed through with his testing,” said Luis Pagan-Carlo, MD, FACC of Minneapolis Heart Institute (MHI), the first cardiologist that Yumul saw.

“The knowledge I gained at work came into play at that time. I recognized the symptoms and their consequences and I knew that it was the smart decision to follow my cardiologist’s advice.”

After performing the angiogram and determining the extent of Yumul’s condition, his doctor recommended he have a coronary artery bypass graft as soon as possible.

“It’s very fortunate that Gerry followed his doctor’s advice and had his coronary artery disease addressed before he had a significant heart attack,” Dr. Benjamin Sun, MD, who performed the surgery, said. “The surgery, combined with a healthy lifestyle, will hopefully give him many healthy years, free of symptoms.”

Yumul found the recovery period to be a learning experience. He learned to gradually regain his strength, healthy eating and stress management practices and, most importantly, to appreciate the important things in life, like friends and family.

“I developed a strong sense of gratitude – for even the simplest things like the air we breathe and the physical strength I have. I guess that’s what you realize after experiencing what it’s like to be constantly dependent on others. The recovery and health improvements I have made validate all my efforts and perseverance in changing my lifestyle. I have lived both the difficulties of having cardiovascular disease and also the rewards of living a heart-healthy lifestyle. I continue to follow through on my healthy diet and exercise to achieve full recovery.”

With the “I am CardioSmart” award, the American College of Cardiology is recognizing Yumul for how he’s lived his life since surgery and for being an inspiration to others at risk for heart disease.

“Gerry’s story is a reminder that early detection of heart disease is important,” said CardioSmart Chief Medical Expert JoAnne Foody, MD, FACC. “It’s important to know your risks and listen to your body. Visiting a primary care visitation regularly can help you learn your risks and determine if something may be wrong.”

CardioSmart is the patient education and support program developed by the ACC. Its mission is to engage, inform and empower patients to better prepare them for participation in their own care. In 2013, CardioSmart established a contest to find individuals who were living well with specific heart disease conditions: high blood pressure, heart failure, atrial fibrillation, previous heart attack or coronary artery disease. Five finalists were chosen—with Yumul as the coronary artery disease representative—and their winning profiles were featured on CardioSmart’s Facebook page. The public was then allowed to vote on the most inspirational story and Yumul was selected as the overall winner.

The four other heart disease condition winners from the “I am CardioSmart” contest will be announced throughout February to bring awareness to heart disease during Heart Month.

To learn more about preventing or living well with heart disease, visit www.cardiosmart.org.

To learn more about Gerry’s story, visit https://www.cardiosmart.org/Connect/Patient-Stories/Gerry-Yumul.

To learn more about Coronary Artery Disease, symptoms, treatment and prevention, visit https://www.cardiosmart.org/Heart-Conditions/Coronary-Artery-Disease.

The American College of Cardiology is a 47,000-member medical society that serves as the professional home for the entire cardiovascular care team. The mission of the College is to transform cardiovascular care and to improve heart health. The ACC leads in the formation of health policy, clinical standards and practice guidelines. The College operates national registries to measure and improve care. It also provides professional medical education, disseminates cardiovascular research and bestows credentials upon cardiovascular specialists who meet stringent qualifications. For more information, visit acc.org.



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