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Brie Levitan

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Join me in my efforts to support Lawyers Have Heart in Memory of my Dad

I could go on and on about how great my Dad was, his "long and colorless” civilian career with the US Navy his pride of being an Eagle Scout, his love of travel and collecting antiques, but right now this is for you to see how heart disease and stroke affected and continues to affect me and my family. By now you know my Dad, Marshall Levitan prematurely left my Mom and me in March of 2014, just before his 75th birthday. It was not heart disease or stroke exactly that took him from us but a trip and fall. But I am here to tell you that both heart disease and stroke were contributing factors to his early death.

Permit me to back in time a little, my Oma (that's German for Grandmother) my Dad's mom was born in Germany in 1902 and moved to the US in 1932. If anyone knows anything about German food one of the main ingredients is butter. My mom never was fortunate enough to meet my Oma. She passed away at 67 when my Dad was only 29. She died of heart disease contributed by her clogged arteries.

Dad's first stroke was in 2008. We don't have the type of family that is very forthcoming with information unless it is absolutely necessary so I didn't even know about it until months later. It didn't affect him very much. But it was just a precursor of what was to come. We should have known. Looking back I wish I would have done some research.

Three years later, I had just gotten to Logan on a Saturday morning ready to spend the weekend with my parents before a few days in the DC Office when I get a call from my Mom. "I'm not going to be able to pick you up from the airport. Can you take a taxi? Your father had another stroke this morning and we're at the hospital. He's fine, but I can't pick you up." This one really changed him. He had to go into occupational therapy to learn to speak and write again. He lost all of his confidence and it took him nearly a year for him and us to feel comfortable with him behind the wheel again. And he had the tell-tale droop on half his face. He never lost the droop and his awful lefty’s “doctor” handwriting never was "his" again.

Meanwhile his heart was not doing so well. In September of 2013 he had to have surgery to replace one of his heart valves that was "leaky" but before they could do that they had to hollow out an artery that had become clogged with plaque. Surgery went amazingly well. He had the finest surgeon in Northern Virginia (in fact the same one who worked on Dick Cheney). His recovery however did not. Dad spent a month in the ICU then another month in "step-down". He then was sent to a nursing facility for another month. He finally came home just before Christmas but all sorts of accommodations had to be made to the house (as if he was 90 years old) and a bed had to be put into the living room for him because he couldn't make it upstairs to the bedroom. He couldn't get around without a walker. He felt humiliated having to be helped and watched all the time.

Happy to finally be home he worked hard to stay there. He went to ever PT session and gradually from December 2013 to March 2014 he was making a comeback. He was finally able to ditch the walker and "graduate" to a cane. The bed in the living room was taken away and he was able to sleep in his own bed again. He was able to go out to restaurants again. My parents were making summer plans to go on a vacation cruise. Life was starting to slowly get back to a new normal. Then on a Spring afternoon, right before lunch he slipped on the one step from the kitchen to the living room and hit his head.

Hindsight really is 20/20 there were so many things that my Dad could have done differently and I wish he had. My Dad liked to eat what tasted good and to hell with it all. It didn't help that my mom is a really good cook. I wish instead of coming home from work, having dinner, and plopping down in front of the TV for the rest of the evening, he would have gotten the family to go for a walk. I wish he would have watched his diet more. I really wish he would have given me a few more years with him. He didn't exercise except for a few laps at the pool when he felt like it. This all resulted in high cholesterol and Type 2 Diabetes. I had him in my life for only 37 years and it just wasn't enough time. His temper, frustrations without outlets, and love of "pushing other people's buttons" resulted in his high blood pressure. All of this was just a recipe for cardiac disaster. Dad didn't control his controllables and I'm not going to let my body fail me like that despite my predisposition to heart disease. There are things like watching what I eat, exercising, and not letting the small stuff get to me that I can do so I don't end up like my Oma and Dad.
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