ROSELAND, NJ — Rockaway Resident Sammy Rabin, an American Heart Association Ambassador and Survivor, will be on hand to help support the Greater Northern New Jersey Heart Walk in Roseland on Oct. 23.

Rabin is a heart disease survivor who was always in good health prior to his diagnosis. 

“Heart disease does not discriminate, it can affect anyone at any time, and I’m living proof of that,” said Rabin. “Among my circle of friends and family, I was known as the poster boy for good health. A healthful-eating vegetarian for 35 years, swimmer, gym rat, marathon runner and meditator. You can imagine how my life was turned upside down in a nanosecond in October of 2013.”

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While training for a marathon, Rabin began to get mild symptoms in his upper left chest that started about a mile into his last few runs, each time lasting about 10 minutes. During the next run, it also came on after a mile, lasting again about 10 minutes, but this this time the sensation radiated slightly down his left arm, however, he continued an 18-mile training run feeling great. 

“I called my cardiologist to describe what was happening, I had a cardiologist out of an abundance of caution, as my father died of heart disease at 68, and my brother at 46, so I had regular testing,” said Rabin.  “A minute after staring to describe my symptoms he cut me off and said ‘your symptoms are classic, I want you in here first thing tomorrow.’  Reluctantly, and in denial that it could be my heart, I went.”

Rabin’s instincts were right, he said, and it was soon discovered that he had severe heart disease in four of his arteries, and weeks later he underwent triple bypass surgery.

“The emotions I went through were not unlike the four stages of grief: denial, anger, depression and acceptance,” said Rabin. “It was only when I arrived at acceptance that I could start to focus on re-building my physical and emotional life.

“My surgeon said to me, ‘You’ve done everything right with your lifestyle, nature dealt you a bad hand, and now it’s time for us to fix you. Had you not led the lifestyle that you did, you probably would have suffered the same fate as your brother.’”

Despite the hard times, Rabin’s focus on getting back to running sustained him, as it was important to have something to strive for.

Last November, two years to the date of his surgery, Rabin completed the 2015 New York City Marathon.

“It was by far my slowest time, but it was also the most meaningful,” he said. “I needed to monitor my heart rate, keeping it under 145. The blessing of this was that it allowed me to slow down and experience the marathon in a way unlike my previous 11.”

According to Rabin, each previous marathon was about getting from point A to point B in the least amount of time. In doing that, Rabin missed what is in between point A and point B.   

“This time I experienced every sensory overloaded minute of it, enjoying each neighborhood of New York City on its most glorious day of the year, adding new meaning to ‘Stop and Smell the Roses,’” he said. “It was an amazing day, the lessons of which have stayed with me since.”

Today, when Rabin finds himself yelling in traffic at the Lincoln Tunnel, or losing sleep over a project at work that hasn’t even started yet, Rabin reaches back to Nov. 1, 2015 and reminds himself to slow down and appreciate what’s around him.

Rabin is sharing his story with the American Heart Association so that others can be motivated to check out symptoms, even minor ones like the ones he experienced. 

“Had I not gone to the doctor to get checked out and continued to train, I would not be here today writing this,” he said. “There is indeed life and hope after coronary artery bypass surgery, in fact, it can be a really good life with some wonderful lessons to be learned.”

This year, Rabin is sharing his story for the 2016 Greater Northern New Jersey Heart Walk on Oct. 23, to help support the American Heart Association as it raises funds and awareness for the nation’s No. 1 and No. 5 killers: heart disease and stroke. Rabin encourages others to do the same.

The Greater Northern New Jersey Heart Walk is nationally sponsored by Subway and locally sponsored by Bayer, NJM Insurance Group, RWJBarnabas Health, Fairleigh Dickinson University School of Pharmacy and Kessler Rehabilitation Institute.  Media sponsors include WDHA-FM, WMTR-AM, TAPinto.net and PIX 11.

Join Rabin and other heart disease and stroke survivors at the 2016 Greater Northern New Jersey Heart Walk on Sunday, Oct. 23 at ADP’s Corporate Headquarters (1 ADP Boulevard) in Roseland. 

Registration will open at 8 a.m. with the Heart Walk kicking off at 10 a.m. For more information, visit www.greaterNNJheartwalk.org or call Tyi Moultry at 201-518-1959.