Dean Oshiro has to rely on his family to fill in the blanks when it comes to what happened on Aug. 20, 2010. That’s when the Santa Monica, California, police sergeant survived a cardiac arrest caused by a heart attack.
Dean had come home from a run and was lifting weights in the garage when he suddenly came into the house and complained he wasn’t feeling well.
Sandra Oshiro, a real estate agent, was showing a house to clients when she got a call from her then-11-year-old daughter Taylor, asking her to come home because Dean wasn’t feeling well. Sandra put her off initially, thinking she was exaggerating. Only then did Taylor tell her, “Dad feels like he’s having a heart attack.”
Sandra told them to call 911 if they were being serious. She rushed through the client showing, still believing it was just an overreaction, and called home to let them know she was on her way back.
That’s when she learned paramedics were there, attempting to revive her husband.
“I went from thinking he was a baby and just wanted me to make lunch to thinking he was dead,” Sandra said.
Dean had felt his chest tighten and called 911. He was on the phone with the dispatcher when his heart stopped. The couple’s son Colton, then 13, picked up the phone and gave the dispatcher information to deploy help.
Paramedics quickly arrived and started CPR. They shocked Dean’s heart twice with an automated external defibrillator before getting it to resume a normal rhythm. At the hospital, he faced additional complications as doctors struggled to inflate a stent after poking a pinhole-sized hole in the artery on the way to the blockage.
Sandra and the couple’s kids held a vigil at the hospital, joined by the family’s network of friends. Dean woke up from a medically induced coma two days later.
“It was an answer to my prayers,” she said.
Dean returned to the family’s home in Santa Clarita a week later and spent the next month undergoing physical therapy and working with a nutritionist to overhaul his diet that had previously included ice cream, cheese and red meat.
Although he had managed high blood pressure for about a decade and had a family history of heart disease, Dean hadn’t taken his own risk seriously.
“I never imagined I would have a heart attack because I was 45 and was pretty healthy,” he said.
The gravity of what happened hit him when he saw that other patients in cardiac rehab were all significantly older than him.
“I realized this was going to be part of my life for the next three or four decades,” he said.
Dean had to learn to better manage his stress and be vigilant about getting plenty of rest. As a police officer, he faced stressful situations and worked irregular shifts so often that he hadn’t recognized the toll it was taking on his body. These days, he makes sleep a priority, and takes time off if he’s getting overtired.
“I’m a lot more conscious of my heart health now,” he said. “I used to just ignore it if I got a headache. Now I stop to consider if it could mean my blood pressure is too high.”
The Oshiros have shared their story at community events, including the American Heart Association’s Los Angeles and Santa Clarita Heart Walks, and encourage others to take their heart health seriously.
“I’m just grateful for the time I have with my family and all the support I have,” Dean said.