Bob Harper, celebrity fitness trainer and former star of “The Biggest Loser” is celebrating his year of recovery. Along with five other heart attack survivors, Harper hosted the event “Survivors Have Heart” campaign Monday.
One year ago, Harper suffered a near-fatal heart attack while at the gym. Nicknamed “The Widow Maker”, the type of heart attack he sustained was so severe that it sent him into full cardiac arrest.
He was finally “brought back” after two attempts with a defibrillator.
Harper partnered with AstraZeneca to create the Survivors Have Heart program to help people who have suffered and survived heart attacks share their stories and inspire others. Five survivors were chosen from an essay contest in which they shared their journey to recovery.
His goal is to help educate people about how to take control after a heart attack. Over two days, survivors were able to tell their stories and participate in workshops about things like nutrition and meditation.
“I have always been in a position in my job to help people," Harper said. Since my heart attack, I have decided early on I was going to take what happened to me and not only try to make the best of the situation but to try to help other survivors.”
“Today has been not only therapeutic, but cathartic. Meeting with other survivors and their caretakers—it’s just been such a good day,” said Harper about the event. “Everyone came in feeling very open and raw and vulnerable."
The event was a celebration of heart attack survivors and their personal experiences with their recovery journey, as well as their relationships with their caretakers.
Harper said, “I think a survivor has got to have a strong group around them. I remember thinking I needed support. I needed my friends. I needed my doctors.”
Kim Craft from Gainesville, Georgia was one of the essay contest winners. He said he enjoyed the event very much.
“This is the first time since my heart attack that I have been around so many survivors and just being able to ask questions to see if they’re going through the same things that I am going through,” he said.
As a team, he and his wife, Karen have turned a negative trauma into something positive.
He said, “For me, the main thing is just being thankful for every day. When I wake up in the morning (it’s about) just being ready to accept the day for what it may bring and just being very thankful and happy.”
The survivors and caretakers also participated in an event that illustrated the dichotomy of the relationship between caregiver and survivor. They were separated into different rooms. Survivors wrote on one half of a heart the feelings they experienced after having their heart attack, and the caregiver wrote how they felt about the survivor.
“I noticed that with us survivors there was fear, there was embarrassment, there was just a completely different approach where the caretakers saw resilience, and power and strength about what we have gone through," Harper said.
"It was really nice to see the hearts come together and really form a complete heart.”