Eight months after his heart attack, Mike Desisto, 64, could have walked to the finish line of his first 5K, but he chose to run the distance.
“If you run, you finish faster,” said Desisto, who lives in Cotuit, Massachusetts.
His positive attitude and good support system are two important tools in recovering from a cardiac event, according to Jason Rose, exercise physiologist with the cardiac rehabilitation program at Cape Cod Hospital.
“Mike was committed to making whatever changes were necessary to be healthy after his heart attack, and he surprised me by running that first race after cardiac rehab. I had never seen him run in class. I’m even more excited to see that he ran another race,” Rose said.
Within six months, Desisto had raced twice since his heart attack. Prior to that, he had not raced in 20 years. “I worked hard to come back,” he said.
He joined colleagues from the Cape Cod Hospital cardiac rehabilitation program for the Healthy Parks, Healthy People 5K Run/ Walk for Heart Health. A month later, he ran the Miles for Meghan 5K, finishing fifth in his age group with a 10:15 minutes-permile pace. Desisto uses the word ‘lucky’ a lot as he describes the things that have helped him the most after his heart attack: his wife, the cardiac rehabilitation program and his fellow patients.
When he talks about his wife, Verna, he says he has been especially fortunate. “I’ve been married 25 years and don’t want to disappoint my wife, so I’m following what they taught us in cardiac rehab. She has put as much effort into our relationship as I have—more, really. Verna has been a real inspiration through the tough times. I am lucky.”
Secondly, Desisto credits the cardiac rehabilitation staff and medical director of the program, Elissa Thompson, MD, who he said are welcoming and make you feel at home, which makes it easy to learn what you need to do to stay healthy. “Jason, Julie Drake (CCH physical therapy director) and the rest of the staff taught me how to exercise right so that it’s really beneficial for my health. I learned how to make better food choices, control my cholesterol and blood sugar, how to meditate to bring my blood pressure down, and that there are great people who know how to give you your life back.
“The way I was treated at the cardiac rehab unit just keeps inspiring me to do the right things as I go forward with my life after the heart attack,” Desisto said.
Last, but not least, Desisto credits the camaraderie he enjoyed with other cardiac rehabilitation participants.
“I enjoyed rehab with the guys. We got to know each other’s interests. I was inspired by guys in their 70s and 80s coming back from heart attacks, exercising and doing great.