DENVER (CBS4) – Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. To bring awareness to the often silent killer, February is recognized as National Heart Health Month by the Heart Foundation.
A Colorado man nearly lost his life to heart and lung diseases and shared his story with CBS4.
“I thought I was going to die from lung disease like my brother did,” Patrick Woltemath said.
Woltemath was diagnosed with lung disease in 2011, three years after his brother died of the disease. He had extreme difficulty breathing, could barely walk and doctors also determined he had a large hole in his heart.
“I was very sick. I kept requiring more and more oxygen,” Woltemath said.
In order to breathe better, Woltemath had transtracheal surgery that allows him to breathe through a tube in his throat. Yet Woltemath felt limited by his extreme weight gain.
“From sitting around for almost three years and not being able to breathe, I couldn’t do a lot,” he said. “I could hardly walk from the couch to the bathroom. Sometimes I had to stop half way up the stairs and sit down. Sometimes I could make it all the up to the top, but then I had to stop because everything started getting dark.”
While on a short walk one day, Woltemath came across the Southwest Family YMCA in Denver.
“Something just drew me to it,” he said.
The YMCA offered a free consultation with a trainer and that’s when Woltemath met Jon Andersen.
“Afterward, I walked out and sat in my truck and said, ‘I hope I don’t let that guy down,’” Woltemath said with a smile.
Andersen said he saw a spark in Woltemath’s eyes that revealed he truly wanted to change his life.
“It came to a certain point where this was either life or death,” Andersen said. “He decided to live life.”
With a personalized workout and nutrition plan from Andersen, Woltemath began shedding the pounds and living a healthier life. It’s an accomplishment Woltemath said would not have been possible without his medical team, the staff at the YMCA and the other members who encouraged him every step of the way.
“I thought my lung disease and my heart issue were a death sentence and they’re not,” he said.
For nearly three years, Woltemath has spent about five days a week in the gym. He has no plans of stopping.
“Every day his attitude is just inspiring,” Andersen said. “I sometimes catch him giving other members tips and it’s just inspiring to see.”
Woltemath hopes his success story inspires others with heart and lung conditions to get moving.
“I still have lung disease and I always will,” he said. “But I am so much better than I was.”
For more information about the Southwest Family YMCA, visit: denverymca.org.
Kelly Werthmann joined the CBS4 team in 2012 as the morning reporter, covering national stories like the Aurora Theater Shooting and devastating Colorado wildfires. She now anchors CBS4 Weekend Morning News and reports during the week. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @KellyCBS4.