senior man contemplating while staring at a lake outside

‘I never thought it could happen to me’

It seems we are born with the belief that we are indestructible. Even as breakthroughs in research, and health care and data collection tell us that certain diseases are hereditary, or eating this will…, or smoking that can…, we still have the ability to tell ourselves – not me – I am immune. There’s always tomorrow.

Jerry McArthur, of Urbana, experienced this phenomenon. Even with a family history of heart problems that he knew could be an issue for him, Jerry lived without taking precautions, ignoring the possibilities.

Jerry’s life changed on Wednesday, May 1, 2002.

“I had a heart attack. I knew that heart issues can be hereditary, but, like most people, I never thought it could happen to me,” Jerry said.

He required a stent to open the blockage in his heart. For the first few years, he exercised and watched what he ate, but over time he slipped back into his old routine.

In April 2017, Jerry had triple bypass surgery. While recovering from his bypass surgery, he suffered a stroke and could no longer ignore his heart and circulatory issues.

“Within a couple of weeks, I started cardio-rehab for 30 sessions. Everything was going great after rehab, which I enjoyed,” Jerry said. “I exercised at the hospital [OSF HealthCare Heart of Mary Medical Center] five days a week, two times a day on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays. Things were going great, and I dropped 55lbs. My cholesterol was great.”

Personalized programs that work

OSF HealthCare Cardiac RehabilitationJerry McArthur and wife offers personalized programs for people recovering from cardiac events, experiencing breathing problems or just wanting to get healthier. The programs improve physical fitness by helping change participants’ lifestyles.

The program worked well for Jerry. But after a year, he had to stop exercising due to an unrelated surgery. While recovering, he had another stroke.

“I had to put rehab on hold for about three weeks. Drove me crazy not being able to exercise… I recovered from the stroke in a couple of days, with no side effects and returned to the program at the hospital [OSF Heart of Mary],” Jerry said. “I continue to watch what I eat. Occasionally, I will indulge, but not often. And I try not to worry about things I can’t control. ”

The therapists with the Cardiac Rehabilitation program helped Jerry change his habits and lifestyle to support his heart health.

“Listen to your doctors and find out about your family history because it does pertain to your health. The staff gave me the information and the means to help myself,” Jerry said. “Take care of yourself and do what your doctors tell you because only you can exercise and watch your diet. No one can do these things for you.”

Advice with impact

We all need a little nudge from time to time, but it’s amazing how some bad habits need a near-death experience before we grasp the impact they have on our health. The belief that we are indestructible and we’ll always have more time can actually play apart in reducing our lifespan or ruining our quality of life.

“Knowing what I know now, if I could go back, I would hope that I would take better care of myself. My biggest surprise about my experience is that it took me so long to realize that I needed to take control of my own life,” Jerry said. “I finally realized that the staff was giving me great advice, but only I have control of what I do to help myself. I hope that people learn from the mistakes I made in my life.”

Care when it matters most

The Cardiac Rehabilitation program requires a doctor’s referral. The OSF Rehabilitation team will work with you and your doctor to determine a plan appropriate for your needs. Talk to your cardiologist or primary care physician to determine if this program is right for you.

Visit to find healthy recipes, health risk assessments and our extensive Health Library.

Last Updated: February 9, 2022

Follow Us on Social Media

About Author: David Pruitt

David Pruitt is a writer for the Marketing & Communications division of OSF HealthCare. He has a bachelor’s of journalism from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and worked as a reporter before joining OSF HealthCare in 2014.

An avid golfer and fisherman, David was born and raised Alton, Illinois, which is where he currently resides with his son, James.

View all posts by

Tags: , , , ,

Categories: Heart Health, Patient Stories