MEDINA COUNTY, Texas – Medina ISD Police Chief Abel Devora was at work at a track meet on February 28, 2020, when everything went south. He suffered a heart attack and was dead for about 15 minutes until a nearby ER nurse brought him back to life using CPR.
“That day, I just walked in, and it was like falling asleep on my feet. So I have no clue what happened,” Devora said.
The police chief woke up after having quintuple bypass surgery and several surgeries to clear his arteries several months later. A year later, he’s back at work and living a different lifestyle.
“I try to walk every day. I try to get some light weights in, exercise, you know, try to eat a little better,” he said.
Devora’s goal is to make it one day at a time.
Dr. Dawn Hui, the associate professor of cardiothoracic surgery at UT Health San Antonio who treated Devora, says the chief’s recovery is pretty remarkable.
“The disease that affected his heart, it turned out that the disease was similar to that was in other areas, in other vessels, such as the ones that went to his brain,” Hui said.
February is National Heart Health Month, and Devora is helping Hui spread the word about the importance of taking care of one’s health before problems arise. Hui said heart disease is the number one killer in the U.S. for men and women.
Hui says it’s crucial to get under a doctor’s care. She says she often hears people say they have difficulty seeing the clues that something is wrong.
“What I hear very commonly is, ‘Oh, I thought it was heartburn,” she said. “One of the symptoms of heart disease is feeling more fatigued with your usual activity. But sometimes those things are hard to figure out.”
Hui said people chuck it up to age, but it could be something more.
Those with a family history, who smoke and suffer from diabetes and obesity are at high risk. Heart disease can be found in those who are in their 30s.
Hui says getting ahead of the problem doesn’t have to be a dramatic life-altering change, but it starts with small choices.
“Every meal you eat is a choice you make. ‘Am I going to eat a healthy meal?’ ‘I’m going to eat the unhealthy meal,’ or ‘I can make a little bit of compromise?’ I think little small incremental changes are the best thing we can do,” Hui said.
Devora is back at work. He says leading up to his heart attack, he was just a typical guy who was not big on doctors and often too tired to exercise. He says everyone knows the importance of taking care of themselves, but sometimes work, family and lack of time get in the way.
“For me personally, with myself, I never really made excuses. I was tired. I just went home,” he said. “Basically, all it comes down to -- do what you know you should do. I mean, common sense is just that. If you know it, force yourself, and that’s the hard part -- forcing yourself to do what you already know.”
For more information on Heart Health, visit the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s page on how to make seven healthy choices in seven days.