Michael Kehler was in full goaltender gear for a minor hockey practice late Monday afternoon after making a typical parental dash to the rink to help coach an excited team of youngsters.
However, his regular ice time with a Swift Current Minor Hockey team was the furthest thing from his mind when on May 30, 2012 he suffered a myocardial infarction which cutoff the return supply of blood to the bottom part of his heart.
Kehler, who works as the City Assessor for the City of Swift Current, is sharing his survival story and reasons behind a complete lifestyle change during Heart Month.
"I knew when I was laying in a hospital bed, in the emergency room, that things were bad and we had to make something change," Kehler said during a break from practice on Monday.
Kehler notes he was under stress while having to work 15 hour days during his busy periods at work. He would run himself down, a problem complicated by a lack of activity from being stuck at his desk most of the time.
"It was a recipe for disaster," he said of his combination of smoking, poor nutrition and job stress.
His health problems struck on May 30 when he returned home for lunch.
"I just had a bit of a coughing fit. And what that probably did was dislodge some plaque from my bloodstream, which caught in the constricted part of my artery right under my heart, which triggered the heart attack."
He did not ignore his concerns and within 20 minutes he was in the emergency room of the Cypress Regional Hospital.
"When they unblocked the artery is when my heart stopped so it was a good place to be. And within three hours I was in the Cardiac Care Unit in Regina," he recalls of his harrowing day just over eight months ago.
While lying in a hospital bed he began to think about how he could seize his second chance. One idea was to rekindle his love of hockey, noting he had only played one or two rec games over the past decade when he moved to Swift Current.
"That was one of the things that I looked forward to. A couple of days after I had my heart attack, I thought, I want to do stuff that's important to me again. And one of them was to play hockey, no matter which way to do it. It's fun to get out with the kids."
Kehler also began a complete change in his eating habits and gave up smoking, with his wife also joining and supporting his choices. He's lost almost 80 pounds and is now exercising regularly.
"I've changed my life. I'm trying to have a little bit more fun that I used to, which cuts back on the stress. The physical activity is the big deal - the endorphins that it releases into your blood stream, into your brain, that really helps with the stress."
"We've changed our lifestyle. We've included physical activity. We've completely changed our diet. We've both quit smoking," he added.
At the time, Kehler knew he was a candidate for health issues, but like most adults he didn't think it would happen to him.
"You need the wake-up call sometimes. In hindsight, I wish I would have started this two years ago because then I wouldn't have the deficiency with my heart now. But, sometimes you do need the wake-up call."
He his hoping his story serves as a wake-up call to others who may have health risks.
"I want them to say, 'hey I can do it!' This guy can do it, and he was in a really bad space."
The Heart and Stroke Foundation has launched a new website www.makehealthlast.ca, which allows site visitors to participate in a risk assessment to determine how their health compares to other Canadians.
Kehler will also be launching a fun fundraiser later this month. He will be collecting donations for Heart and Stroke Foundation during February, taking suggestions as to what he can wear to work on Feb. 28. Admittedly, he would wear a bunny costume, or some other non-embarrasing outfit, if supporters help him reach a certain fundraising goal.