VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - For eight minutes last October, Patrick Dablow was dead on the floor of a Virginia Beach Planet Fitness.
Dablow, 66, had gone to the gym after leaving his part-time job. After saying hi to his wife Lorrie, who was also at the gym, he hopped onto a treadmill and began running. That was his last memory.
"I put my hands on the bars to monitor my heart rate and like I say, five days later when I wake up, my wife and my daughter were there telling me that I had had a heart attack," Dablow recalled in an interview with News 3 anchor Todd Corillo.
Three strangers who happened to be at the gym, including an off-duty Norfolk Police officer, came together to begin life-saving measures on Dablow until rescuers could arrive.
"Three people that came together at exactly the moment that my heart attack occurred started to revive me but could not get a read. What I’ve heard or been told is that I was flatlining or carting," Dablow says. "There was a group of people all around me praying, and I took one deep breath and it just all came back."
In the weeks that followed as he recovered, Dablow knew that he had a choice to make if he wanted to avoid another heart attack.
"When you’ve died and been revived and brought back to life it’s pretty easy to think, 'Okay, God’s got a plan.' Obviously this was not my time; I was not supposed to go," he remembers.
Despite being what he considered relatively healthy and active, Dablow didn't realize there were aspects to his lifestyle that needed work. His cardiologist recommended he consider the Ornish Reversal Program at Sentara Princess Anne.
"Everything changed. My blood pressure dropped, my cholesterol dropped, my energy level increased," Dablow shares.
Ornish was developed by the cardiologist Dr. Dean Ornish to help stop the progression of heart disease and, in many cases, reverse it.
Sentara Princess Anne is the only location in Virginia to offer it right now. Participants meet twice a week for nine weeks and learn about how diet, exercise, stress management and group support all work hand-in-hand to improve health outcomes.
"We address all of those components together. Each one is equally important as the other," explained Sentara's program director, Sharon Henley. "Once you get heart disease, it takes a lot more effort to get that to turn around. Does that mean we can get everyone back to perfect? No. But we can sure make a dent in it."
Dr. Gunadhar Panigrahi is a cardiologist and is the medical director for the Ornish program at Sentara Princess Anne. He says patients often see results quickly.
"Dramatic differences. The vast majority of them have improved their symptoms of chest pains just in the matter of two to three weeks."
That was certainly the case for Dablow.
"After three to four weeks into the Ornish program and starting to feel better, it wasn’t just about surviving, it was about thriving. Because then all of a sudden, your mind opens up and you start feeling better and you start going, 'Wait a minute here, there’s a whole lot more to life,'" he said.
You can learn more about the Ornish Reversal Program at Sentara here.