By David Feehan

I was sitting in my office in January working on a project for a parking client when I began to feel confused. The report I was reading, to which I was contributing, suddenly wasn’t making sense. I called my wife but just got voice mail. I decided I needed help.

By the time I made it to our foyer and sat down on a chair, things were getting decidedly scary. I had remembered to bring my cell phone, which I was holding in my right hand, but I wanted to transfer it to my left hand so I could dial. I looked at where my left hand should be but could neither see nor feel it. Then I tried to dial with my right hand but could not remember how to place the call. Finally, I was able to speed dial my son.

For almost an hour, I had sat on a chair calling out for help in our empty townhome. EMS workers got me quickly to a nearby hospital emergency room, and they diagnosed what I suspected—a stroke. It turned out to be rather mild; I could talk and there were no signs of paralysis.

A week later, I had a second stroke. Fortunately, my son was home and I recognized the symptoms almost immediately. Tests showed a blood clot had formed in my heart, causing a mild heart attack and had traveled to my brain. Subsequent cardiac tests showed substantial blockages – too severe to be corrected by stents. My only realistic option to avoid a fatal heart attack was bypass surgery, which, thankfully, was a success. I feel very blessed.

As a parking professional, what can you learn from my experience? First, parking can be a stressful occupation. Stress is not good for your cardiovascular system. Find ways to reduce stress.

Second, watch your vital signs. Blood pressure and cholesterol levels are extremely important. Medications and diet can help with both, though high cholesterol is often an inherited problem.

Third, know the signs of stroke and heart attack and have a plan of action should either occur. Having 911 as a speed dial on your phone is always a good idea.

Fourth, watch your weight. Obesity puts an unnecessary strain on the cardiovascular system, and increases the risk of stroke.

As my father used to say, a word to the wise is sufficient. Take these words to heart. You don’t want to go through what I’ve gone through, or even worse.

David Feehan is president of Civitas Consultants, LLC.