Re-posting this story from last year because this story is simply incredible.
Join us this Sunday at City Park in Hopewell, 3:00pm-5:00pm to meet Mr. Sparks and Dr. Morris and have an opportunity to ask questions and get a small sample of what a hike is like!
THE STORY OF LARRY SPARKS
As a human race, we all face many challenges throughout our lives whether big or small. Some of us learn from those mistakes and move on to live a better life. Larry Sparks is one of those people; a very courageous man who didn’t back down when he was met with one of life’s most terrifying challenges.
Larry Sparks is a Virginia native in his 50’s who lived an active lifestyle. Each year in America about 735,000 Americans suffer from a heart attack. In 2015 Larry joined this group. This was when Larry realized there were changes that he needed to make, and that’s exactly what he did.
Larry sparks underwent a 4-way bypass open-heart surgery, following an unsuccessful angioplasty. The first day after his open-heart surgery in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), nurses had him up, and out of bed sitting in a chair for a few hours, then he was back in bed for the next few days. For the days to follow, Larry’s nurses took him for a walk around the nurse station. He recalls, “I remember the first [short] walk around the nurse’s station felt like I was walking 80 miles.”
He vividly remembers his ICU nurse Mitch, who would talk to his about short hikes that he would take on his days off. This sparked his interest as camping and hiking was always something he had wanted to do before his heart attack, he just could never find the time with his busy schedule. Mitch even explained to him that he would take his one day off and go hiking. Hearing this changed Larry’s life. He decided when he felt better he would use his days off to enjoy the great outdoors. And with education from his doctors, he learned to feel better and reduce his risk of another event, he would have to adjust his diet.
Prior to his heart attack, Larry didn’t have the best eating habits. He would eat fast food three times per day, because his schedule wouldn’t allow for much else. He says that he can remember craving roast beef sandwiches, chips and candies. He also loved pizza, something he ate all the time.
After his heart attack, however, he drastically changed his eating habits for the better and learned how to create healthy meals within his busy schedule. He really enjoys Mediterranean-style foods now and surprisingly doesn’t crave salty foods anymore. He completely cut out most fast food restaurants and only eats pizza or roast beef sandwiches occasionally. He states, “I just don’t have a taste for it anymore.”
Three years later, he is preparing for his first major hike on the Appalachian Trail. The hike is 10 days long and starts at Big Meadows Campground and ends at Rockfish Gap. He plans to hike 4-7 miles per day. Larry has also researched this hike in depth in order to protect his health. In his search he was able to locate all shelter and water sources along the trail. He also found healthy practical foods that he could pack for his entire trip so that he won’t eat out. Also, throughout preparation for this hike, he continued to communicate with his physicians about his readiness and health. His cardiologist, Dr. Clifford Morris, could not be more ecstatic about his journey. Larry was not only cleared by his cardiopulmonary stress test and treadmill stress tests and assessments, his results put him now in better health than years before his heart attack.
Dr. Morris encourages Larry and says one of the most important things he can do is to listen to his body. Dr. Morris also advocates for ultimate preparedness as he say’s “much of fear originates from lack of knowledge or a plan, if you can eliminate these elements much of the fear is gone.” Dr. Morris recommends Larry locate area hospitals just in case he may need them as a tool in his preparedness.
Many people believe chronic disease and high risk run in their family, as Larry believed, however he exemplifies how much of an impact diet and activity can have. Dr. Morris explains, “It is not genetics that are making people sick, it is the habits that are passed down…don’t let these hold you back.” Find your determination and what you love and don’t stop until you achieve it. We wish you all the happiness on your hike Larry, every step is a milestone and every day is another to be thankful for.
UPDATE: Mr. Sparks completed his hike successfully in November of 2018, share in some of his photos from his trip below!