Back at Work After Bypass Surgery : Police Chief Has Health on Agenda

Times Staff Writer

Glendale Police Chief David J. Thompson returned to his desk this week, three months after suffering a heart attack and undergoing double bypass surgery.

He was 25 pounds lighter and, he said, determined to live healthy.

Thompson said he has given up chili hamburgers and French fries, walks 2 1/2 miles each morning and has cut back on sweetened coffee.

"It was a learning experience," said the hard-driving Thompson, 58, a self-described workaholic who climbed through the ranks in a 34-year career from foot patrolman to chief of Glendale's 260-member department.

"I had all the poor habits and didn't listen to advice," he admitted. "I didn't watch my diet and I didn't exercise. I was a typical executive with a high-cholesterol problem."

Named chief seven years ago, Thompson worked 56 hours a week, skipped breakfast and ate on the run when he was not attending a civic group's lunch.

During a luncheon meeting of the La Canada Flintridge Chamber of Commerce on Nov. 3, Thompson felt chest pains and nausea. He drove himself to a Glendale hospital, then was transferred to the cardiac unit of the Hospital of the Good Samaritan in Los Angeles, where he underwent surgery.

'Good Lord's Help'

The gray-haired Thompson credits his survival to "the good Lord's help and a cardiologist," Dr. Michael Stark. He said he has spent much of his time since "learning how to stand upright after they sewed me up."

The chief spent about five weeks of his recovery period with his wife June on the Oregon coast, where he fished for salmon and reflected on his life style.

"I'm a hands-on person," Thompson said. "But I need to get my hands off and let other people get involved." He said he plans to delegate more jobs and share the public speaking.

Thompson said he became eligible for retirement with full benefits two years ago but has no immediate plans to exercise his options.

The chief said he will retire "when I decide."

Slimmed down from 200 pounds to 175, the 5-foot-10 Thompson said he has a full agenda. Following a luncheon meeting with Citizens for Law and Order on Tuesday, he was working on departmental organizational changes for next year. He said downtown traffic and gangs were foremost on his mind--along with salt, a forbidden food for which he has not found a substitute.

"Health food," he said, "makes me sick."

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