Star power

Montana crusade personal one for writer

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By Stephanie P. Hanover

For Blount Today

KNOXVILLE — I was planning to make my father quit smoking. In fact, I couldn’t wait to capitalize on the opportunity to persuade him while he was vulnerable.

At least that’s what I was thinking while I was driving the short distance to Blount Memorial Hospital, where he was en route via ambulance at the time. He had fallen in the yard while installing some replacement windows. My aunt hadn’t told me much more. She didn’t want to worry me.

I was certain he had overworked himself trying to settle too quickly into his new house. After a 15-year stint of life in Castle Rock, Colo., he had been convinced to relocate to Maryville, to come home. Two months prior, he had fallen out of the moving van after a 21-hour day of driving.

He said he felt dizzy, but I still wasn’t concerned. I was able to make excuses to alleviate any fears I had. He was my dad and, for that reason alone, nothing could be wrong with him.

To this day, I’m not certain he had any ailments of record. His medical file was thin and contained little more than the mandatory check ups required by the military. David Pendley wasn’t one to seek medical treatment. On the contrary, I
thought he needed to take himself more seriously — eat better food, exercise more and work less.

He took all my advice kindly and listened intently as I laid out a plan for him to start cycling with me.

"You will love it," I said. "It will be good for you."

In the spirit of competition I told him, "You will have to quit smoking because you’ll never keep up."

In his usual way, he continued in his own right, only changing his single-minded focus when it suited him to do so. It was part of what was fascinating about him.

Months went by, work days grew long, life happened. While we both went about our regular lives, three months of precious time slipped away — unnoticed.

My dad was really enjoying his new house and his opportunities to reacquaint himself with his previous life. He never mentioned any health problems, and I never thought to ask.

My persuasive anti-smoking campaign was rendered useless on Sept. 24, 2005. That’s the day I lost my dad to a massive heart attack. At only 55 years old, David Pendley was suddenly and tragically lost forever with no second chance.

I am guilty, like many, of disregarding the things that don’t require my immediate attention. High blood pressure hardly compares to a broken leg. It doesn’t hurt. No one can see it.

That’s why high blood pressure is known as "the silent killer." While in action, it is silently and forcefully pumping blood through your veins, stealthily damaging your arteries and wearing on your organs. Combined with your genetic risk factors,
diet, exercise (or lack thereof) and smoking, the combination can be lethal.

Tuesday, as I spoke with NFL great Joe Montana, I was struck by the level of devotion he feels toward the promotion of awareness of hypertension, or high blood pressure. When confronted with the disease initially in 2002, he said he was "surprised, but really didn’t think much about it. I felt perfectly fine and was not aware of the long term effects of high blood pressure."

Montana said he "became very concerned" when he was told he had a partially clogged artery.

Montana and Dr. James Rippe, a Harvard-trained cardiologist and fitness expert, have been traveling the country the last five years spreading the word of hypertension awareness. According to Rippe, "72 million adults have high blood pressure, or 70 percent. One third aren’t even aware of it."

David Pendley was the retired chief of a medical unit at Buckley Air Force Base in Colorado. He was well aware of many medical dangers and how to remedy them. As a paramedic he was responsible for saving a number of lives. He was as unlikely a candidate for hypertension as is "Joe Cool."

For the rest of us, a simple blood pressure reading is the key. It’s a chance to become aware of a medical problem or disregard one.

Louis Pasteur once said: "Chance favors the prepared mind." Had Montana accepted a basketball scholarship to North Carolina State, he may never have become "NFL legend Joe Montana." If Dwight Clark had missed "The Catch" thrown by Montana under duress during the 1981 NFC Championship game, the 49ers wouldn’t have gone to the Super Bowl that year.

Knowledge allows you to make choices about your health. Become aware. Increase your odds.

© 2007 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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