Local man makes life changes after shocking congestive heart failure incident

COLLEGE STATION, Tex. (KBTX) - Ben Kennedy, a training manager with the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service, was on a work trip several weeks ago when he started showing symptoms of congestive heart failure.

"It felt like I was drowning. I couldn't breathe. My weight went up over a week's period. It took me 6 hours to get dressed packed up and leave town when I left the place where I was. When I came home I was scared," Kennedy said.

His wife rushed him to the doctor where they learned he was experiencing CHF. His wife took a photo of him that he'll never forget.

"That was the first time I had ever seen what I looked like. Working in the emergency field I have seen people that were dead that looked better than I did as far as weight and swelling was, and just to be quite frank with you, it scared me half to death," Kennedy said.

The Kennedy's then went to Baylor Scott & White Health in College station for treatment.

"The first night I was in the hospital I lost 19 pounds. I would end up losing 40 pounds over the period of about a week," Kennedy added.

"He had been carrying about 20 pounds of fluid weight on him for quite some time, and just didn't really pay attention to the symptoms. two to three-pound weight gain overnight, five pounds in a week, shortness of breath, exhaustion. All these things that after speaking with him, he'd been dealing with for quite some time," said the Congestive Heart Failure Coordinator at Baylor Scott & White Health, Christine Kazmierski.

Kazmierski says poor eating habits led to Kennedy's incident. Since then, he's started going through cardiac rehab and was set up with a 90-day recovery plan with a dietitian.

"Diet, lifestyle change, taking medications appropriately. He's doing cardiac rehab, he has taken everything that we've told him to do and he is doing it," Kazmierski said.

Kennedy says he's following a low sodium diet and doing whatever he can to make sure he's in good health. He said life is looking better now, but that he works every day to make healthier choices so he can finally go back to doing the things he loves, like spending time with his grandkids.

"I'm looking forward to going hunting with them again this fall, sitting up in the deer stand with them, walking around hunting birds, whatever we do. Before I could do it, just not quite as much so hopefully the health will come back completely and we can get back to a normal life," Kennedy said.

Kazmierski said if you'd like to check to see how well your heart is functioning, visit the Baylor Scott & White Health website where they have a number of questionnaires and resources on heart health.