Kevin Breeland almost didn’t live to participate in this year’s Austin Heart Walk.
Breeland, 58, nearly died two years ago, when he suffered a heart attack at his home in Georgetown. Emergency medical crews performed CPR on him for an hour and a half, and jolted him with a defibrillator 37 times before his heart began beating again.
“I was dead for 45 minutes,” he says.
Breeland had a history of heart disease in his family – his biological father, grandfather and two uncles all died of it, and his sister and mother also had heart problems. Yet he ignored it. He was overweight and out of shape, and didn’t eat a healthy diet.
“All my doctors tell me how lucky I am to be alive,” he says. “When I came to a week later, I was on dialysis and machines hooked up to me. I ended up being in the hospital a month, then rehab for four months.”
Today he’s thankful for every day. On Saturday, Breeland’s daughter, sister, aunt and friends will join him for the Austin Heart Walk at the Long Center, 701 West Riverside Drive.
The annual event is a part of the American Heart Association’s “My Heart. My Life” movement, which aims to improve heart health of Americans and decrease the number of deaths due to heart disease and stroke. The American Heart Association hopes to raise $1 million to help fund research, education and outreach that support heart health.
Heart disease is the top killer of Americans. Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death. According to the American Heart Association, 80 percent of cases are preventable.
“Even though a lot of heart disease is hereditary, there are things you can do to protect yourself – eating right, exercising and all the things I didn’t do,” Breeland says.”We have to raise awareness.”
Breeland has lost 60 pounds since his heart attack, and walks and takes the stairs when he can. Still, he knows he needs to get back to the gym more often. Recovery has been slow, and Breeland says if he’d been in better shape leading up to the heart attack he could have recovered more quickly.
“The reality of it is I feel pretty good, better than have in years,” he says.
The non-competitive 5K walk begins at 8 a.m. at The Long Center. The event will include an interactive Kids’ Zone and complimentary heart and health screening. Adults, children and pets are welcome.
There is no fee to participate in the walk, but donations are accepted. For the first time this year, a 5K chip-timed run will be part of the lineup. Entry fee for the timed run is $40. To register for either event, go here or call 512-338-2400.