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‘Thankful to be alive’ – Siouxland man raises heart disease awareness after having heart attack

Dan 1
Dan Tjaden
Dan Tjaden with his family
Dan 2
Dan Tjaden
Dan Tjaden with his family
Dan 6
Dan Tjaden
Dan Tjaden with his family
Dan 9
Dan Tjaden
Dan Tjaden with his family

SIOUX CITY (KTIV) -- Shortness of breath, nausea, lightheadedness. These symptoms may make you think that you're just not feeling well and many may brush it off. But, they can be an indicator of something much more serious happening such as a heart attack.

Many have turned their attention to raising awareness about the disease and the signs and symptoms.

"May 30th was the big day that changed my life," Dan Tjaden said.

That Friday in 2019 started off like any other for Dan Tjaden. But at about seven that morning things quickly changed.

"I'd been having shortness of breath, feeling tired," Tjaden said. "Did not feel good in the like. So I knew something was going on."

Dan immediately went to the ER at MercyOne Siouxland. That's where he said he had a heart attack. After doing tests, doctors discovered that 85% of his left anterior descending artery was blocked.

"Which is the widow maker," Tjaden said. "Typically if people have that and it does burst, you're not able to receive care soon enough to save your life."

Dan said he was one of the lucky ones. His dad and brother, weren't. Both passed away from heart attacks.

"So I was the third in the family," Tjaden said. "So I was very fortunate that I am alive and here to tell my story. If I had not listened to my body, I wouldn't be here today. I was that close."

Dan said if one life can be saved, because of his story, it's worth it. Now Dan is looking ahead to his future and to this year's Siouxland Virtual Heart Walk on Aug. 21.

"Heart disease is the number one killer in the U.S. and it's so important that people better understand it," Tjaden said. "Through technology and through the funds that people do give, we can change the world."

He said he often thinks of all the things he would have missed out on, if he hadn't paid attention to the signs.

"I live for my family," Tjaden said. "I live for my church. I live for God and just not being able to share the things that I want. I want to live until I'm a lot older. Thinking about what could have happened and it does show you, how important life is, and how important that we need to care about things more so and live like it's your last day."

While there are similarities in the symptoms of a heart attack in men and women, there are a lot of differences.

The American Heart Association says as, with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, lightheadedness, nausea and or vomiting, and back or jaw pain.

If you experience any of these signs or symptoms it's important to call 9-1-1 immediately. The American Heart Association also advises not to drive yourself or have someone drive you to the hospital unless you have no other choice.

Tjaden said he hopes people take those steps to be healthier and raise awareness by signing up for the Siouxland Heart Walk on August 21st. Because of the pandemic, it is virtual this year.

Their goal this year is to raise $50,000, so far they've raised $29,000.

If you would like to donate or sign up, click here.

Michaela Feldmann

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