But nature sometimes has a way of defying good intentions and good practices.
“In 1999, I’m running the beach in the morning. I ran about a mile, and I ran out of gas. I didn’t have any angina or any pain. Very unusual,” Gabe says, his voice softening at the wonder of it.
“I tried to rationalize it—something I ate, I didn’t have enough sleep...but I knew something was wrong.”
A cardiologist performed an angiogram and found the major blockage they call “the widowmaker” and two lesser ones.
So, 11 years ago at age 60, Gabe had his first heart procedure—a triple bypass.
Low energy levels in 2007 sent the super-active Gabe back to the cardiologist’s office, where an EKG revealed atrial fibrillation, putting him in imminent danger of stroke.
A standard cardioversion shocked his heart back into regular rhythm. “That lasted two years,” he says. “It was great.”
Gabe’s experience taught him to regularly monitor his blood pressure. “When it jumps up, then I know I went into A-fib again.”
This time he was referred to Nathan Segerson, MD, a cardiologist and electrophysiology specialist (the diagnosis and treatment of heart rhythm disorders) on staff at Harrison.
A second cardioversion lasted four months. The third one lasted four hours.
And a new EKG turned up a new problem. A-fib is on the left side of the heart. Gabe had an electrical abnormality on the right side. It’s called a flutter.
This time, he needed an ablation, which involves terminating the abnormal rhythm via radiofrequency energy sent through a catheter to the hyper-active cells within the chamber of the heart.
There is no surgery involved and Gabe says his procedure in July 2009 took only about an hour. It also prompted a gush of gratitude. Two days later, he sent a fan letter to Scott Bosch, Harrison’s President and CEO.
Gabe’s normal anxieties had been relieved even before he checked in to the hospital. He had high praise for the staff member who called to complete a questionnaire and treated him with warm professionalism. The next day, “from the check-in person to the nurses and technicians, I sensed and observed people working happily and professionally together as a team,” said the former longtime leader from Team LAPD.
He and his wife, Robin, were greeted and welcomed as if into a family, he wrote. What could top the “Welcome Gabriel” note on his pillow? The chance to choose his favorite music—Brazilian—to accompany his drift into sedation and reawakening?
The letter was a professional courtesy, Gabe says.
“We’re always so quick to criticize. I remember how I felt when I was sitting behind a desk and got a commendatory letter about someone who worked for me.”
Heart issues will probably always be with him, Gabe explains. He expects to need another ablation in five or 10 years.
But he’s still running 50 minutes, six days a week. “At my age you do time, not distance.”
And he’s not really retired. He and his wife also travel extensively. “It’s just another phase of life,” he says.