What A Heart Attack Taught Me About Balance

m_authorGuest post by Mike Figliuolo.

I had a heart attack, some time ago. I was just sitting there when out of nowhere I had a sharp pain in the right side of my chest. That pain started radiating out my back, down the backs of my arms and legs, and over the back of my skull. Breathing became a little difficult. This wasn’t just heartburn – that I get after every trip to Taco Bell for their delicious Grilled Stuffed Beef Burrito XXL Extreme. (Hmmm… causality?)

Meeting my clients

I drove over to the ER at Dublin Methodist Hospital – an OhioHealth facility (yes, bad decision to drive versus calling 911). Before I knew it, a wheelchair was under my butt speeding me to a room. Incidentally, I decided to use my client’s services for this – OhioHealth is where I teach and coach many of their executives. It was only natural to choose them for this “event.” They poked, prodded, and measured. One of the nurses asked “Hey, aren’t you (senior executive’s) coach?” I am. That was awkward.

m_mike_attackThen the doctor told me: “You have a blockage. You’re going to be fine but we’re sending you to Riverside Methodist Hospital (another OhioHealth facility) and you’re going straight to the cardiac cath lab. You’re probably getting a stent or two.”

This was one of my scariest moments. The doc quickly reassured me: “You’re going to be fine.” I could see in his eyes that he meant it. I immediately settled down as evidenced by the selfie accompanying this article which was taken about 5 minutes after that conversation.

Ambulance ride: Lights and sirens and everything. I’d like to thank Ford (another client) for building a great ambulance that got me to Riverside safely and quickly.

The nurses and the doctor the cardiac cath lab were amazing. They explained everything, they were efficient, kind, compassionate, and competent. After making a tiny 1/2” incision in my wrist, the doc snaked a cath all the way to my heart and placed two stents to open up an artery that was 95% blocked. I’d like to thank my client, Abbott Labs and Abbott Vascular for making the stents that saved my life. I guess you could say I’m taking this whole “be loyal to using your client’s products and services” thing a little too far…

I was taken to recovery where two more clients took care of me – CardinalHealth/CareFusion who makes many of the devices used during my recovery care and Heinz who makes the delicious dressing that was on my chicken Caesar salad.

Lucky me

I had the good fortune of being well taken care of by many close friends and family members during and after the “event” and I can’t thank everyone enough for that outpouring of support. I also had many clients from OhioHealth stop by to check on me.

I always say “I don’t have customers – I have clients because clients are about a relationship.” Over the years, I’ve always viewed that relationship as one where I served my client’s needs and did everything I could to take care of them. The team at OhioHealth demonstrated that that relationship works in the other direction as well. I’m truly blessed to serve such a compassionate and noble organization.
About 24 hours later, I was released from the hospital with some prescriptions and a great prognosis. I have to make some pretty big lifestyle changes but they’re all manageable and good for me. I consider myself extremely lucky in all of this. Besides, wheat bread doesn’t suck as bad as I thought it did.

I did everything to take care of my client's needs Click To Tweet

Take your own advice

I’m great at giving advice. That’s what I get paid to do. But I suck at taking it. I have an extremely thick skull. That trait suits me well in many ways but it almost cost me my life. So who am I to give you any advice? I’ll do it anyway…

Take your own advice: practice what you preach! Click To Tweet

I have done a terrible job of taking care of myself. My diet has been abysmal and my exercise routine consists of chasing my Jack Russell terrier around yelling at him for peeing on things. What makes it worse is I’m self-aware about these deficiencies in my behavior. I wish you guys could have seen the nutritionist’s and cardiac nurse counselor’s faces during our “aftercare” conversations.

“Do you know what you need to do?”

m_stones“Yep. Decrease sodium. Reduce fats (especially saturated ones). Increase exercise – at least 20 minutes of aerobic per day. No real resistance exercise required because this is a cardio issue. Take my statins and other meds.”

“Um… yeah… So you kinda already know all this stuff. How do you know all that?”

“Well, I’m a certified Master Fitness Trainer from my days in the Army and I also know about cholesterol issues from others who have faced these challenges. I just haven’t done it.”

Balance requires taking care of yourself too. Click To Tweet


Idiot. Balance requires not just taking care of your job and those around you. You first have to take care of yourself because if you don’t, there’s no way to take care of anyone else – especially if you’re dead. If you’re out of balance, you can’t effectively lead your organization and take care of everyone else in your life.

Invest in yourself first. Get back in balance. Now… before it’s too late.
I encourage all of you to take a step back and reflect upon how balanced you are.

  • What’s your diet like? Exercise? Stress?
  • When is the last time you saw your doctor and got a checkup?
  • Still smoking (quit!)?
  • How are you going to help yourself DO it?

Mike Figliuolo is the Founder and Managing Director of thoughtLEADERS, LLC. https://www.thoughtleadersllc.com/ 

He’s also the author of One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership.

Marcella Bremer is an author and culture & change consultant. She co-founded this blog and ocai-online.com.

Leave a Reply

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Ethan Bridges

    Hi Marcella and Mike,

    Thanks for sharing your story, Mike. I’m so glad you’re okay. I think everybody’s guilty of not taking their own advice. (Exercise–I’m making amends for this, too.) This is a great, great reminder.

    Marcella, thank you 🙂

    1. Marcella Bremer

      Ethan, you are right. We can all use this reminder every now and then! I hope you can put this gentle reminder into practice 🙂 We have only one body to keep us on this earth. Let’s take care of it. Or, as Virgil put it: Your health is your wealth!

  2. Paula Kiger

    Great guest post! I am glad everything was caught in time.

  3. Saira Khan

    Thank your for sharing this very personal story to remind us of what our priorities should be…

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