At NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital in New York lay a 79-year-old man on a table, riddled with heart disease, undergoing triple bypass surgery.
Dr. Mehmet Oz and his partner, Dr. Matt Williams, had the daunting task of saving his life.
As I watched the procedure with my Eyewitness News Co-Anchor Ellen Leyva, it brought me back many years. My father died during a triple bypass. He was only 50 years old.
So there I was, years later, at age 48. I have a 4-month-old daughter named Kaia. If I were to meet the same fate as my father, Kaia would not know her father beyond her second birthday.
My story is a snapshot of what America has become, a country whose families are torn apart prematurely because of heart disease, our number-one killer.
More than anything else, my job as a father is to change my genetic course, to buck the trend. You do it through diet and exercise and Dr. Oz helped me gauge if I was, in fact, doing it right.
I took an echocardiogram. It basically looks at the rhythm of your heart and detects any abnormalities. The news was good: Mine was normal.
But the meat of the test would take place in a lab. With the help of cardiologist Dr. Shepard Weiner, Dr. Oz put me through the infamous cardiac stress test.
"This test has revolutionized the practice of medicine," Dr. Oz said. "Instead of us asking how you feel, we can tell."
The test started with me on a bed, wires taped to my chest and an ultrasound that gave doctors their first look at my heart.
First, they wanted to see how it beats while resting. The more challenging part of the test was the treadmill.
That first stage was comfortable. Just 1.7 miles per hour at a 10-percent incline. My heart rate was 70 beats per minute.
Three minutes later, 2.5 miles per hour and a 12-percent incline, and still comfortable. My heart rate was about 90 beats per minute.
At six minutes, it was 3.2 miles an hour at a 14-percent incline.
"This is where a lot of the folks who require my services start to have problems," Dr. Oz said. "This is a classic scenario. Six minutes, seven minutes in, they were doing fine then all of a sudden the blood pressure dropped or they got short of breath and we throw them over there. That's why we look for symptoms like shortness of breath."
Shortness of breath: Dr. Oz couldn't emphasize it enough.
"This might not cause you chest pain because it's not closed enough, but it might cause you shortness of breath," Dr. Oz said.
"Please, if you remember nothing else from what I say today, the number-one thing you want to watch out for is shortness of breath because it means your heart doesn't have enough blood to keep going. That means you could die," Dr. Oz said.
As the test continued, I reached level four, which was 4.2 miles per hour at a 16-percent incline.
"The recipe for success for men with heart disease is pretty straight forward," Dr. Oz said. "Number one, you have to rev the engine. So physical activity, absolutely vital. People always wonder, 'What kind of physical activity should I do? Should I weight-lift? Should I stretch? Should I run?' Cardiovascular activity that gets your heart rate up that makes you breathy when you speak is the most important thing for your heart."
So running, biking, the elliptical machine, these are all cardiovascular exercises that will work your heart.
"The second big thing men have to do is watch the belly," Dr. Oz said. "There's lots of reasons to do this: You look cooler. Big-bellied males often have problems with erectile dysfunction because the belly fat will take testosterone and convert it to estrogen, so you don't have the libido anymore. Your big belly will cause high blood pressure, high blood sugar and high blood cholesterol, all three of the things that we know lead to heart disease."
Back to the test. Level five I'm 12 minutes in. Walking is no longer an option. My heart rate jumps to 141.
"So the average for our age is 10 minutes and 40 seconds," Dr. Oz said. "Just to give you an idea, you've already lapped most people who are in your age group. I only point that out that as a culture we need to get more fit. This is the best test of how healthy you are. It probably predicts better than anything else how long people are going to live."
Three minutes later, level six. My heart rate jumped to 160. My breathing increased. It was still manageable, but not for long.
Finally, level seven. I was 18 and a half minutes in. My breathing was getting shorter and my heart rate was at a stressed 171.
It's time to stop the treadmill so doctors can take a good look at it.
After that, the doctors re-imaged my heart. The ultrasound allowed them to see all the chambers. If any part of the heart wasn't pumping properly, they'd see it.
"What's the verdict? It's perfect. It really is wonderful," Dr. Oz said.
The news was good, but it was just a reminder that I'm on the right track. If I stop my healthy habits tomorrow, my good health goes away with it.
It's about finding your motivation, be it looking good, feeling good or spending quality time with your family. Whatever that motivation is, harness it. And get tested by your doctor. If you're lucky, you might even find one as good as mine.
"The Dr. Oz Show" joins ABC7 starting Monday, Sept. 12, 2011 at 3 p.m.