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Robert Zimmerman, New Jersey

by Maria G. on Monday, September 17, 2012

Pitman Police Chief Robert Zimmerman believed himself to be a healthy 46 year old: he doesn’t smoke or have diabetes and he had normal blood pressure. He did have a history of high cholesterol, but that had been addressed years ago and was under control. He has a history of heart disease in his family, but not in anyone as young as him.

In early April 2012, while watching his daughter perform with the high school concert choir, he experienced an episode of dizziness and felt as if he would faint. The feeling passed, so he was not concerned. However, throughout the next month, he suffered six more "episodes" of symptoms such as dizziness, chest pain and difficulty breathing. Since each passed rather quickly, he chalked it up to allergy symptoms.

In late April, Chief Zimmerman underwent a police department required physical. His EKG and blood tests were negative and he was cleared for duty. At the end of the appointment, he mentioned the "episodes" he was experiencing to his doctor. The doctor was concerned and referred him for further testing.

After receiving a stress test, Chief Zimmerman learned that his left anterior artery (LAD) was 98 percent blocked. This blockage can cause a serious, often lethal heart attack that is sometimes referred to as "the widowmaker." The first thing that he thought of after hearing the news is that he would not be around long enough to watch his two daughters graduate high school or spend more time with his wife.

Chief Zimmerman received a life-saving coronary double bypass the day after his diagnosis. He is recovering well and has returned to work full time. Although he was taking steps to keep himself healthy before, he has made changes to his diet, started walking three miles everyday and has lost 30 pounds. He hopes that by telling his story, others will learn to watch for the warning signs of heart disease and take action before it’s too late.