He’s a distance runner. Just like me.

A parent. Just like me.

A spouse. Just like me.

A sibling. Just like me.

He’s young. Just like me. Younger, even, than me.

He had no risk factors, other than high cholesterol and family history. Just like me.

He continued running. Just like me. The first mile was terrible. His lungs couldn’t keep up with his legs. He forced himself to run anyway. Just like me.

He had pain for days. Just like me.

He had all kinds of explanations and excuses. Just like me.

When it finally became unbearable, he drove himself. Just like me.

He went to the ER then the OR then the ICU. Just like me.

And now he’s a heart attack survivor.

Just like me.

One year and two weeks since I had a heart attack, my little brother, age 32, had one too. To say it’s a shock is an understatement. To say it is terrifying even more so.

My reaction went far beyond a big sister worried about her brother, and to be honest I’m still trying to understand how I feel. I want to help. I want to shake him. I want to cry. I want to learn. I want to flee.

I want to be not-sick.

And I want to know why. Why is it that two of three siblings have heart attacks within a year and at such young ages? Why is it that two healthy people (we run marathons, for goodness sake!) who do everything right end up with lifelong, life-threatening diseases? Why? Why? Why?

Because if I don’t know, I can’t stop it. I can’t change my future, or his, or my sister’s. Or my sons’ or their children’s. I feel helpless and at the mercy of this disease in a way I haven’t felt since I was the one in the hospital bed, smiling and joking and making people feel better. And I don’t like it. Not one bit.

I wonder if my brother feels just like me.



  1. What a couple of weeks you’ve had! Thinking of you and your family. I hope you find the answers you need very soon.

  2. Thanks for that I identify with all of it except the young part I am 59 It was Mountainbiking that became my diagnostic tool and I’m now 9 weeks post op after AVR and bypass. The Anger,why me, poor me yes all that. However I’m back on my road bike now and managing a run or two around five miles. My brother and son have had check ups showing raised cholesterol but my daughters are dragging their heels Ill tell them about your experience and hopefully that’ll give them a push.

  3. You and your family have had a very challenging time of it! I’m glad that your brother will be okay, and I wish that there were easy answers and easier solutions. Wishing you all a speedy recovery. You’re in my prayers!

  4. Oh, Jen – I’m so sorry to hear of your brother! Boy, there is no “Fair Fairy” out there, for sure. And his diagnosis has upped the ante for the likelihood of familial connection here, doesn’t it? Good luck to him (and you!)
    PS Does driving yourself to the E.R. run in your famiy?!?!


  1. […] August, 27, one year and two weeks after my heart attack, my younger brother Mike had one too. He is 32. While we all knew we inherited this risk, none of us really believed it […]

  2. […] brother had a heart attack at age 32, one year and two weeks after mine. Not kidding. I completely freaked out and melted down – after all I’d done and learned I couldn’t keep him safe, and likely not myself either. Or […]