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Reacting to Tim Russert’s Death in My Own Three Ways …

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I haven’t been able to stop thinking about Tim Russert’s death since I heard about it and frankly, I still can’t believe it happened. Russert was the moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press, as well as political analyst for the network. He died June 13, 2008 from sudden cardiac arrest while he was at work—he was fifty-eight. For some reason, his death has affected me so greatly. I never met him; I don’t really even like politics. But he definitely touched my life.

As a TV news journalist … I looked up to him and respected him immensely. Even though I don’t care much for politics, I always tuned in to hear whatever he had to say. I think it was because his passion was obvious. You could just see it on his face. That in and of itself made me hang on to every word. Russert was always beyond informed; tough, but always fair. He was one of the few true journalists left in the TV news world and it’s so sad to see another one go.

As a health reporter … I wanted to know more about his health and death right away: did he had heart problems before? Was he on medication? Did they use a defibrillator? Now we have answers to those questions.

Yes, he had coronary artery disease. Yes, he was on medication and he also exercised to control it. And Dr. Michael Newman (Russert’s personal physician) tells CNN’s Larry King that resuscitation attempts began right after he collapsed:

“NBC had a defibrillator. A resuscitation was begun almost immediately. NBC had an EAD [external automated defibrillator] on site, and they were preparing to use it. At the same moment, the DC EMS, emergency medical squad, arrived, and they immediately defibrillated Tim. He had no heart rhythm. They defibrillated him. His heart was beating then in a ventricular—fine ventricular fib, and then it deteriorated. They shocked him again. Actually, he was defibrillated three times before his arrival at Sibley Memorial Hospital.”

According to the American Heart Association, 310,000 people die every year of coronary heart disease—most of them from sudden cardiac arrest. And from what I’ve been reading in the last few days, many people now want to know their risk of heart disease and sudden cardiac arrest. You can find out much more at the American Heart Association’s website.

Russert wasn’t the picture of health—he carried weight around his belly, a known risk factor for heart disease, but he was doing something about it. Maybe his death will make more people do more to reduce that dangerous abdominal fat.

As someone who has experienced loss … I know the “what ifs” can make you crazy and that there can be so many of them. It’s hard to accept that it was just his time to go, but what other choice do we have? My heart goes out to his family. Goodbye, Tim Russert—you will be sorely missed.

Photo Credit: Molly Skipper/Reuters

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