DOWNTOWN — Santa Monica Police Sgt. Dean Oshiro, an 18-year veteran of the department, exercised regularly; he would go for a run, polish off a cardiovascular workout and lift weights three or four times a week.
So when he felt like he was having a heart attack one morning last August, it was surreal, he said. He asked his daughter to call his wife, who advised him to dial 911. While speaking with the dispatcher, Oshiro collapsed and his children found him unconscious on the living room floor.
After Oshiro was rushed to the hospital, doctors found that he had a complete block in the left artery of his heart.
“I felt I was in good physical condition, (and thought) the chances of having a heart attack were slim to none,” said Oshiro, who currently supervises SMPD’s Homeless Liaison Program.
Oshiro eventually recovered with an angioplasty surgery and seven-day stay in the hospital, as well as months of rehabilitation.
The doctors called Oshiro’s heart attack a “widow maker,” said his wife, Sandra Oshiro.
“He was very young, it never dawned on me that this might be happening,” she said.
Yet the issue with dangers like heart disease and stroke is that they do not discriminate, and they can occur at any age, said Kristine Kelly, American Heart Association senior communications and marketing director.
“That’s why it’s important for people to be aware of their risk factors and take care of their health,” Kelly said.
While the cause of Oshiro’s heart attack is still not clear, he will be sharing his story at the American Heart Association’s Los Angeles County Heart Walk on Saturday, Oct. 15, alerting others to risk factors such as genetics and eating habits.
“His story is very powerful and comes with an important message of calling 911 when you have a heart attack or stroke,” Kelly said.
The Heart Walk, the association’s biggest fundraising event of the year, is a nationwide effort to raise funds and engage the public in fighting heart disease and stroke. More than 831,000 people die of heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular disease every year, according to the association. Additionally, about 80 million people in the U.S. are living with some form of cardiovascular disease.
“When you look at those numbers, you can see how prevalent the problem is,” Kelly said.
The 5K run/walk, hosted at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, includes about 6,000 to 7,000 participants, who gather donations from friends and family. Last year’s 8,000 L.A. walk participants raised about $1.1 million, and this year, the goal is upped to $1.2 million, Kelly said.
A year since Oshiro’s heart attack, he and his family have changed their diet and other factors. With a family history of heart attacks, Oshiro also made an effort to adjust his sleeping habits and the level of stress in his life.
“It’s important for people to be aware of the risk factors … It could affect the whole family,” said Oshiro, referring to the possibility of a heart attack.
In addition to the 5K, the day’s activities include a one-mile survivor’s route, free hands-only CPR demonstrations, blood pressure screenings and lively performances.