All Health's Breaking Loose: Life is a fragile thing

A couple of weeks ago, my faithful gardener Juan, took his last breath in my front yard. I am required to have CPR training because I teach fitness. After years of practice pressing on a dummy’s chest, this time it was real. My neighbor rushed over. We kept compressions going until the paramedics arrived. They were efficient, truly a well-oiled machine in action. But it was Juan’s last day. A man with only a touch of gray hair, a man I thought not more than 60 years-old — gone in what seemed an instant.

Surprised? Confused? Shocked? Yes. I don’t have a lot of experience with death.

In my conversation with a paramedic bearing the name tag “Gibbons,” I learned Juan’s cardiac arrest was not related to any other condition. Paramedic Gibbons paused, looked me in the eye and said, “It’s a fragile thing, you know.”

I’ve written many columns about heart disease. But since my experience with Juan, my perspective has been forever changed. I write today from a more personal place. The website reports more than 2,200 Americans die of cardiovascular disease every day. That’s about one death every 39 seconds. So as 2,200 people take their last breath, they're leaving behind a lot of folks as shocked, surprised and confused as I was.

You're a health-minded person. I know that because you read my column. You care about your body and probably already know the dangers of smoking and high cholesterol, and of being overweight, overworked and stressed out. We all do the best we can. But after having seen the life suddenly pass from the human form of my gentle gardener, I want to say I agree with Paramedic Gibbons. It's a fragile thing. Life is fragile and worth protecting.

We have the information: books, magazines, radio and television. We're surrounded by it. But merely knowing doesn't take the strain off your heart. Sometimes we have to do hard things, things like saying “no” to desert when it looks really good, pulling on your walking shoes and heading out the door when you want to stay in bed, dedicating yourself to losing the 10 pounds you gained a few years ago, eating vegetables that you don't really like — all are hard things. But when gathered in to the style of life you lead, all are a gift to your heart. As your heart pumps blood to about 60,000 miles of blood vessels day every day, it will do so with less strain.

As this new year begins, one of my resolutions will be to find more courage to do some hard things and hope they get a little easier as the year goes on.

Because life is a fragile thing.

LOA BLASUCCI is an author and owner of All Health’s Breaking Loose Wellness Retreats. Blasucci’s book, “All Health’s Breaking Loose,” was named a best-pick finalist in the Health: Exercise & Fitness category for 2011 by USA Book News. Find more at

Editor's note: This article has been updated from an earlier version.

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