By Kevin Keohane
Gordon College News Service
February 18, 2014
(This story was published Feb. 218, 2014, in the print and online editions of The Newburyport News.)
Newburyport, Massachusetts – Ever imagine being hit in the chest with a baseball bat? What about coming to the realization that you might not see your child get married one day? A heart attack can do just that. But a heart attack is not always the end of a life, and for one Newburyport man it was the start of a new and better one.
In July 2011, Dan Tymann, now 54, suffered one that changed his life. According to the Center for Disease Control—who has named February, American Heart Month—715,000 Americans a year experience a heart attack. And over 600,000 Americans die from some form of heart disease each year, making it the number one killer in the U.S. Tymann narrowly escaped being one of them.
The family man and former corporate executive had just finished pushing himself in a Crossfit workout in Topsfield with his 22-year old daughter, Sarah, and was on his way home when he stopped for gas. He suddenly felt the impact of the proverbial baseball bat to his chest, and began considering lost time with his wife, daughter, and other important family members.
“So much goes through your mind, and I thought, this is it, my life’s over,” Tymann said. “I remember thinking, ‘God, I think I’m gonna see you soon,’ and honestly I had just kind of accepted it at that moment.”
As Tymann stood at the pump, he knew he was in a serious situation and didn’t know what to do. Then he glanced across the street, saw a fire station and stumbled over while in cardiac arrest.
Tymann’s heart stopped twice that day, but both times medical personnel brought him back. He was raced to Beverly Hospital and stayed for several days. When he was released, the doctors told him to slow down his busy life and change some habits or he’d be back.
Since the heart attack, Tymann has done just that. He’s switched to a gluten-free diet, a change that’s meant he’s lost 80 pounds and he’s developed a lifestyle of regular exercise, which includes walking or working out at the gym. Both have given him a significant improvement in overall health.
“What I’m finding now is, when I make a mistake . . . I pay much worse of a price than I did before. I feel it more,” he said.
His daughter—whom he did get to give away last year at her wedding—recently opened Crossfit Five Plus in Beverly with her new husband and a team of friends to help Tymann and others like him stay healthy. He is not always able to work out as much as he would like because of his demanding schedule, but he’s committed to taking care of himself and encourages others now to do the same, steps that the CDC endorses as moving closer to a healthier heart.
“Every healthy choice makes a difference,” according to the CDC web site, which also provides a number of practical ways to prevent heart disease, including limiting alcohol use, finding a partner to join in exercise and eating changes, and finding ways to reward yourself.
Tymann, a former executive at Cisco Systems, sees his healthy habits as crucial to his current work at Gordon College, where he works as executive vice president and Chief of Staff to the president, and is currently in his ninth year there. Tymann says his favorite part of the job is forming relationships with students. But he also knows that he needs to lead by example.
“I was 45 and thought I probably have another 20 years to work and another 20 years to have an impact as a leader,” he said. “I really wanted to be in something that’s much more directly tied to my faith. Gordon offered that. But if I don’t take care of myself, I’ll lose that opportunity.”