Like A Rock

Like A Rock

With February being Heart Health Awareness Month I feel it necessary to share my story.

In March of 2013 I was made aware that I suffered from heart disease. This first episode began with what I thought was a severe case of heartburn. I actually experienced the intense burning in my chest one week prior to my hospitalization. When it began I went to the hospital and was given some anti-acid medicine and sent home. Exactly one week later I returned to the hospital with the same pain. The last thing I remember is calling a friend to take me to the hospital. From what I was told I walked through the hospital doors, collapsed and coded.

In February of 2016, while at work I experienced severe pain in my chest. It was not similar to the previous burning that I experienced the first time, but because of my history I was admitted to the hospital. This time I was diagnosed with heart failure and learned that my heart did not pump with enough pressure. The doctors installed a defibrillator to assist my heart in returning to a normal rhythm in the event that it stopped or was irregular.

In August of 2019, I awoke to severe chest pains yet again. My wife was travelling to work in another city, so I took it upon myself to drive to the hospital for what I thought again, was heartburn. After being at the hospital, having an EKG that did not detect anything abnormal, the Doctor walked in and explained that my blood work indicated that I had suffered from yet another heart attack. This time I was subjected to having a triple bypass surgery.

Each time I went to the hospital it was a struggle for me. I don’t like hospitals, don’t really care for doctors and I am afraid of needles.  The other issue is that I do not like hearing bad news. As I sat in the hospital thinking of all the mental issues that I was facing, I began to think of all of the other men, especially men of color, who in an attempt to be strong, who do not like hospitals or doctors as I was myself. I thought of the fact that had I just tried to let the pain subside as I had so many times before, I would have died in either of the above instances. While recovering and having all those thoughts running through my head, Like A Rock was born.

The purpose of this blog is to encourage everyone, that if you feel something is not right with your body, it is crucial that you take the time to go get checked out. Even after everything that I have been through, I still hate making regular doctor visits. Since having the open-heart surgery, I often tell people that listening to my heart saved my life three times over. I didn’t physically listen to my heart, but I took steps to find out what the pain was about. I listened to my heart and thought of how selfish I would be to not get myself checked. I listened to my heart as it spoke to me about my loved ones and especially the time that I could possibly lose with my children. They deserved at least an effort on my part.

Post-surgery has been my biggest challenge ever. I have struggled with not being fully independent and as active as I want to be. I have struggled with going to sleep, because I was told that because of my condition, one day I will go to sleep and simply not wake up. I have struggled with making friends and getting close to people, because I don’t want anyone to miss me. But the fact that I am here to have thoughts alone helps to sustain me; hey I pride myself on being a thinker.

Life is what it is. I have a very low ejection fraction, and the surgery did not fix the problem. So, I still struggle. Although the surgery did not fix my physical heart, it fixed my spiritual heart. I try my best to love everyone I know and everyone I meet.  The procedure assisted me in upping the game of my pre-existing spirit of giving. I try very hard to go and see my family and friends whenever possible. I try as hard as I can to laugh at almost any and everything. My heart is full when I am around those I love and I think we have become the goofiest bunch of people in the world, and I love it.

If I had not listened to my heart and gone to get it checked, I would not know and understand this valuable time-space in my life. I would not be trying to make the most of every single second that I am alive. I encourage each of you to make sure you take care of yourself. No one has been with you as long as you have been with yourself. You are your own first responder. Do not hold in pain, discomfort and signs that something may be wrong. Let a professional ensure you that everything is okay.


Ricardo Lewis

Director, Giving Hope Again

Inspired to Give

As a child, I learned very early that there was something missing. At the tender age of three, I lost my mother to breast cancer. A non-conventional relationship with my father, landed me and my two siblings in the care of our maternal grandmother. We grew up with a life full of challenges, but luckily the blows that life was dishing out were softened by the village that helped to nourish and raise us.

Growing up there were hosts of family, family friends, community figures and personal friends who reached out to me, maybe in part because of the situation I was in; no mother, a father who I saw sporadically, a huge age difference between me and my closest sibling (eight years). I was the baby of the bunch. The one who never had the chance to develop a relationship with his mother. But the “village” poured into me for whatever reason. 

I often visited other friends’ houses. Their mothers and fathers became my mothers and fathers. Their siblings became my siblings. Teachers who knew my story or learned of it from my previous teachers took a keen interest in me, often coming to visit my aging grandmother if I did something wrong, or even coming to visit to tell how well I was doing. The D.A.R.E. officer for my elementary school did the same thing. He would come pick me up on the weekends and I would hang with him and his nephew and his wife. Then there was the local appliance store manager who bought Christmas gifts, took me canoeing, and often brought me over for Sunday Dinner. He and his wife treated me as if I was their own.

My family was very non-traditional, but filled the air around me with love. I have cousins whom I refer to as my aunties, cousins who I refer to as sister and brothers, aunts and uncles that I considered my moms and pops, and even a sister-in-law, whom I affectionately to this day still refer to as Ma. 

We didn’t have much but as with most young kids we were not aware of the financial difficulties.

As an adult I understand that because of the people who did not have to take interest in me, those people helped to mold me into the person I am. Understanding that situations and environments such as the non-traditional  one I grew up in, can easily lead to a feeling of hopelessness. My appreciation for what my “village” poured into me has allowed me to develop a passion and an inner necessity to give back whenever I can, as much as I can, as often as I can, while I can. Knowing that there is that one person, like myself, who will appreciate having HOPE AGAIN! 

Ricardo Lewis, Director

Giving Hope Again Inc.