Les Smith on a journey to better health after suffering heart attack

Posted at 8:50 PM, Feb 06, 2015
and last updated 2015-02-13 21:58:53-05

Norfolk, Va. - Les Smith woke up one morning with chest pain and numbness in his arm. Two hours later, he was in the emergency room.

“A lot of things are happening all at once. We do an EKG on you to check your cardiac rhythm. The doctor is immediately notified. And then as that`s happening, other people are hooking you up to our monitors and drawing blood and starting IVs,” says Nurse Mindi Tysor.

Emergency room Dr. Todd Parker looked at his EKG and didn`t like what he saw.

“Your heart`s electrical activity wasn`t working the way it`s supposed to,” says Dr. Todd.

The cardiac team was notified immediately, and people moved quickly to get Les ready for a fast trip to the cardiac cath lab.

A lot of questions are getting answered very quickly.

“Is your blood pressure too high? Is it too low? How`s your pain?” asked Nurse Emily Dickerson.

Cardiologist Dr. Shon Chakrabarti pinpointed the cause.

Live images showed him an artery was 100 percent blocked.

Within minutes, Dr. Chakrabarti had put a catheter, a wire one fourteen thousands of an inch wide, into his wrist.

The doctor guides the wire into his heart.

“And that`s what we need to cover with the stent to keep the artery open,” says Dr. Chakrabarti.

A stent, a tiny little scaffold, was now keeping the artery open.

Fewer than 45 minutes after he showed up at the ER, the procedure was over.

“If we can open that artery within 90 minutes of the time you arrive at the door, you have a much better chance of saving that heart tissue,” says Dr. Chakrabarti.

The emergency was over, but the stark reality was just setting in--Les had become a heart attack survivor. A very lucky one at that.

“A lot of people who have heart attacks never make it to the hospital in the first place. A lot of other people who have heart attacks and make it to the hospital never make it out of the hospital,” says Dr. Parker.

The fact is his heart attack, like most, was completely preventable. He says he ignored high cholesterol for years. He did not regularly exercise and pretty much ate what he wanted.

Now that will all have to change. Cardiac rehab is the first step.

He now exercises while his heart is monitored very carefully.

“Exercise is just one component of cardiac rehab to condition your heart, to get your heart stronger, more efficient for not just daily activities, but a healthier lifestyle,” says Nurse Rae Silkey.

That means education on nutrition and for now at least, medications— a lot of them.

It is a painful and expensive lesson on ignoring his health and his body`s warning signs.

Now Les has someone to help support him on his journey, Alan Krasnoff.

He served on city council in Chesapeake for 18 years before he was elected mayor in 2008.

He says for many years he was unhappy.

"I have a saying, `Enjoy and be you now`. I wasn`t enjoying and I wasn`t me," says Krasnoff.

About 10 years ago there was a moment of forgiveness for his mother. She wanted to be the perfect mother for him to be the perfect child. That quest for perfection made him miserable.

"It`s the first time on planet Earth I really felt like, wow I`m alive. This is it. I`m really set free, thank you God. This is what it`s all about. It took me 57 years 358 days to be set free from all that bondage," says Krasnoff.

He says he needed to be set free from another stronghold--food.

"I was a glutton. I ate. I ate. I ate," says Krasnoff.

He says he was eating himself into an early death. He is a doctor, chiropractor, but he needed a wake-up call about his own health.

He says he had a wake-up call in July 2013 when something he heard finally registered with him.

"Don`t you know your body is a living sacrifice to God? And as I`m eating that`s all that came into my head. I go into my car, I look in the mirror and I went -whoa, oh my God. Whew," says Krasnof. "I figured it out. Instead of focusing on what I should`t have, I started focusing on what I was going after and that was the journey, the destination to get healthier.

Now he is healthier, his weight, blood pressure and high cholesterol are all down thanks to diet and exercise.

He also coaches others.

"Everybody has value. It`s already inside of them. It just needs to be unlocked, unleashed. It`s gotta be set free. It`s there. Every gift you have is already inside of you. it`s there," says Krasnof.