Renton heart-attack survivor to walk in Start! Puget Sound Heart Walk
September 30, 2008 · 11:18 AM
Heart disease runs in the family for Craig Riggs of Renton. His father and mother both died from heart attacks, his father at 59 and his mother at 61. His brother has had five angioplasties (heart-repair surgeries).
Still, Riggs thought he could beat the odds.
“I exercised like a fanatic,” the 60-year-old says.
Exercise meant four to five days a week of biking, tennis and swimming.
His heart attack came during a tennis match, on Aug. 6, 2007. Like his father, Riggs was 59.
The men had the same type of heart attack. Neither experienced chest pains or other warning signs.
Doctors told Riggs that 80 percent of people suffering that type of heart attack die.
He was lucky. Medics stabilized him by shocking his heart three times using an automatic external defibrillator. Full recovery required an emergency triple bypass at Swedish Hospital. The surgeon told Riggs his blockage was some of the worst he’s seen. Three of his heart’s seven main arteries were blocked, up to 90 percent.
It may have been Riggs’ regular exercise that saved him. That also runs in the family. Riggs’ brother, the one who has had five angioplasties, is a marathon runner.
Riggs doesn’t remember anything from the day he had his heart attack. What he does remember is waking up and telling the surgeon he would get his health back, 110 percent.
He’ll get closer to that goal this Saturday, when he and his wife Tammy participate in The Start! Puget Sound Heart Walk, in Seattle. They’ve already met their fundraising goal of $250 for the 3.2- mile walk.
“It’s just me giving back ... and saying thank you, thank you for saving my life,” Riggs says.
Aside from his genetic background, Riggs didn’t fit the heart-attack profile. But, as he learned, heart attacks can happen to anyone.
“I don’t smoke, I wasn’t overweight, and most people in (the hospital) were just like me,” he says. “I was caught by surprise. There are no stereotypical heart-attack victims. It happens to everybody.”
The Start! Puget Sound Heart Walk is Saturday at 8:30 a.m. The 3.2-mile walk starts at Qwest Field, 800 Occidental Ave. S., Seattle. The walk continues in a loop on the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Sign up at www.pugetsoundheartwalk.org or call 206-632-6881. Registration is also available on site, the day of the event. There is no registration fee. The walk is the signature fundraising event for the American Heart Association.