NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

February 28, 2014

A terrifying wake-up call

Heart attack spurs Newbury man to change his lifestyle

By Kevin Keohane
Gordon College News Service

---- — 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 suddenly bring on both of those feelings, as one Newbury man learned.

But for Dan Tymann, the heart attack that nearly ended his life turned into the start of a new and better one.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — which designated February as American Heart Month — 715,000 people in the United States experience a heart attack each year. And more than 600,000 Americans die from some form of heart disease each year, making it the No. 1 killer in the U.S.

Tymann narrowly escaped being one of them.

In July 2011, Tymann had just finished pushing himself in a CrossFit workout in Topsfield with his 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,’” said Tymann, 54. “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, which helped him lose 80 pounds. 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,” he said. “I feel it more.”

In September 2012, Tymann was able to walk his daughter down the aisle during her wedding to Chris Welch.

Sarah Welch, 27, recently opened CrossFit Five Plus in Beverly with her husband and a team of friends to help Tymann and others like him stay healthy.

Tymann is not always able to work out as much as he would like due to his demanding schedule as the executive vice president and chief of staff at Gordon College in Wenham. 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,” the CDC writes on its website, 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 work at Gordon, where he has worked for more than eight years. His favorite part of the job is forming relationships with students, he said. But he also knows that he needs to lead by example.

“I was 45 (when I started the job) 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.”