Q & A with Dan Surprenant: Lessons from My Heart Attack

Q & A with Dan Surprenant, Esq. CELA

Attorney Dan Surprenant with his wife, Dr. Kate Lacoste

Dan, earlier you shared an article with our readers about the heart attack you suffered in January, 2020. We received quite a bit of feedback on that article and wanted to check in and give readers an update about your experience. What can you tell us?

Dan: I’m so thankful for the many well wishes that I have received in the past year! Now is a great time to let everyone know how I am doing and share some of the lessons that I have learned in the months since surviving my heart attack and quadruple bypass surgery in January, 2020. Needless to say, it’s been quite a year!

Just as I was returning to work, COVID-19 hit. That meant that after my 6 weeks of forced medical hiatus, working from home became the new norm. It also meant new stress, dealing with the anxiety about COVID and how it would affect our business.

As always, our team responded beautifully!  We took quick measures to implement Zoom with clients, sanitize our office spaces (over and over), we used applications to switch the office phone to our cellphones, and many other efforts. Everyone pulled in the same direction. As this new norm set in, we learned that we can actually work from almost anywhere.  We also learned that, thanks to technology, clients do not have to leave their home to do estate planning, unless they want to. 

Interesting! Like many other small businesses, you had to make adjustments to manage the impact of the pandemic and still be available to serve your clients. What adjustments did you make in your personal life to address your health?

Dan: Well, in the past year, I have begun exercising more. Speed walking and yoga are my regular outlets for mind, body and spirit.  I’m back to playing paddle (tennis) regularly and loving it. I also meditate for 15 minutes twice a day- once right when I awake and again in the afternoon. While I started this practice before my heart attack, I’ve become more consistent and dependent on it since.  I look forward to it because I find that with the stress of COVID and work, mediation is necessary to clear my mind, relax my nervous system and keep me even-keeled. I’ve learned that it calms and focuses me and makes me more productive. 

I wish I could say I’m eating much better. I’m eating a little better and working on it. I don’t snack after dinner and eat little red meat. 

Seems like there is more to learn from you about aligning your physical and mental health. Maybe you can share more on that at another time. There are some alarming statistics about heart attacks.

Dan: That’s for sure! I’ve learned, from my surgeon, Dr. Iraklis Gerogiannis, that at age 50 roughly 85% of people who have a heart attack do not survive. I’m very lucky, and grateful, to be here today. I pay attention when I hear stories of similar incidents of those who make it and of those who do not. 

I’d also like to give a much-deserved shout out to my cardiologist, Dr. Matt Costa. He visited me each day of my hospitalization, monitored and adjusted my medication and all aspects of my care, and has generally coached me through recovery and healthy changes. Thanks, Dr. Costa.

It’s great to hear that your healthcare experience was so positive. Any other lessons that you feel you gained from this experience?  

Dan: I’ve learned that work is a gift. Being able to help people for a living really is a gift. It’s a joy to use my education and experience to navigate complicated matters for families, and to help solve their problems. To be of service. For that I’m grateful. For learning first hand that you never know when a crisis will strike and to be able to pre-plan with families for a living. That feels good. 

I’ve learned that life is short and it may be shorter than we all think. I learned that I need to smell the roses a bit. For me, that may mean getting to my daughters’ volleyball game or taking a Saturday drive with my son. Or, with my wife Kate, keeping our commitment to “date night” each week. When I was bound to the hospital bed, tubes still in, Kate and I made a commitment to take that Caribbean vacation with the kids that we have been talking about for years, savings be damned.  Life is too short and there is never a perfect time. Unfortunately, just after booking the trip, COVID made it impossible (at least for now).  We look forward to making that a reality in 2021. 

Basically, I’ve learned to slow down a bit, listen a little more and enjoy family, friends and clients (and clients who are friends).  Everything happens for a reason. I don’t wish a heart event on anyone, but for me, strangely it has improved my life in many ways.  

All great reminders, Dan! Anything more you think our readers should know?

Dan: Yes!  In my last article about the event, I said that my father, Bob Surprenant, had quadruple bypass surgery at age 65.  Well, he has corrected me in that he was actually 64 years old and had 6 bypasses, not 4.  He says, “Anyone can have 4.”  So now I have set the record straight.  😊

Also, thank you for your expressions of support and well wishes. I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible in the New Year!  

©Surprenant & Beneski, P.C. 35 Arnold Street, New Bedford, MA 02740, 336 South Street,   Hyannis MA 02601 and 45 Bristol Drive, Easton MA 02375.  This article is for illustration purposes only.  This handout does not constitute legal advice.  There is no attorney/client relationship created with Surprenant & Beneski, P.C. by this article.  DO NOT make decisions based upon information in this handout.  Every family is unique and legal advice can only be given after an individual consultation with an elder law attorney.  Any decisions made without proper legal advice may cause significant legal and financial problems.