“Not all heroes wear capes. Some of them wear scrubs. Some of them wear uniforms. And some of them wear what you’re wearing right now.” ~Dr. Amy Acton, Director, Ohio Health Department
Lessons Learned From Personal Health Crisis Help During COVID-19 Disease Outbreak
While he wears many hats in his job, Mercy Director of Safety and Security Peter McDaniel has added a few more since the coronavirus disease outbreak. As the leader of the Stark County Emergency Health Care Planning Committee, he is one of many healthcare workers and other officials across the region to put plans in place to keep the hospital and community safe during this pandemic.
In response to the COVID-19 crisis, Mercy has activated their Hospital Incident Command System (HICS). In his role as HICS liaison officer, Peter is working with the hospital HICS team, outside agencies, and community partners to ensure that Mercy has what it needs to care for patients and keep staff safe during the evolving situation.
Peter’s perseverance and planning helped him through his own recent health crisis. Read how one of Mercy’s many super heroes found the power to take control of his health after suffering a stroke and find success on his wellness journey.
18 Months After Stroke, Peter Was Training For a Marathon
“I didn’t think that I was old enough for such a thing,” Mercy Director of Safety and Security Peter McDaniel said. In November 2018, the then 44-year-old found himself in a Mercy hospital bed after suffering a stroke.
A married father of two and a 12-year Mercy employee, Peter made the decision, while in the hospital recovering, to make significant lifestyle changes.
Five months later, the Jackson Township resident was able to run the Pro Football HOF Marathon as part of a Mercy relay team. Now 100 pounds lighter, Peter was training to run the Pro Football HOF half-marathon before this year’s cancellation. He accomplished this, merely 18 months after his stroke, by making an unwavering commitment to eating right, exercising regularly, and reducing stress—every single day.
“I know what I need to do, and they are foundational things that I must check off every day to help me succeed,” he said.
The warning signs were there.The week prior to having a stroke, Peter took time off to recover from a severe bout of adenovirus. When he returned to work, he noticed some odd symptoms.
“My left foot was dragging at times and I saw some facial changes in the mirror,” he said. “I didn’t deal with it sooner because I hoped that it was something else or virus related.”
He admits that he probably should have recognized the symptoms by following the FAST acronym, which stands for Facial drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulties and Time to call emergency services.
The stroke effected Peter’s left side and initially, he had to deal with coordination issues, including facial droop. “I was very fortunate that I was able to recover,” he said.
A Hospital-bed Epiphany
While recovering at Mercy, Peter took stock of his situation. “Looking at the risk factors for stroke, the only one that I had was that I was overweight,” he said. “It was pretty loud and clear that if that was the only factor, I really needed to address my weight—which was 265 pounds at the time—for once and for all.”
Peter’s wellness journey started the day after his stroke. “I was in my hospital bed, and I asked my wife to bring me a green smoothie, and I ordered salmon for dinner,” he said. “I decided that I didn’t want to wait until I had recovered, the time for change was now.”
Checking All the Boxes
Peter said that his family had seen him embark on wellness journeys before. He said, “I’ve struggled with weight throughout my life. I became very good at losing weight but even better at gaining it back. I think my family was probably tired of hearing me talk about it.”
This time, he vowed that it would be different. “I was just going to do it and set an example for my kids,” he said.
To help him stay on track, his youngest daughter made a calendar with cartoon drawings of her dad. Every day, there are three tasks that Peter has to check off on the calendar: eat healthy, exercise, and meditate.
“I love checking those boxes. It gives me a feeling accomplishment before I leave for work. Now, I’m eating foods that I enjoy,” he said. “I think that I always knew how to eat healthy, but now have a strong reason to make the lifestyle change.”
In the past, Peter followed whatever diet was popular at the time. “Yo-yo dieting is really a slippery slope, I ended up gaining more with each slide. Now, I’ve found something that I can sustain for life,” he said.
To lose the weight, Peter followed a Keto/Atkins concept—low carbs, high protein, and a six-hour window for eating. Breakfast was a couple eggs with whatever meat was left over from dinner the night before. For lunch, he packed a protein bowl made up of Greek yogurt and whey protein topped off with nuts. His dinner consisted of meat and stir-fried vegetables. He said that the weight came off quickly.
“I gave up coffee, I’d been drinking way too much of it anyway,” he said. “Now, I start my day off with green tea.”
He has sworn off other beverages, including alcohol, with the exception of plenty of water with lemon and kombucha (fermented tea, rich in probiotics).
At 5 feet 8 inches, Peter has reached his goal weight of 165 pounds. He said, “I’m not on any diet for maintenance, I just loosely follow the Mediterranean Diet and give myself an 8-hour window to eat. Now, I’m eating foods that I enjoy.”
At dinner, he dines on whatever meat his family is eating but while they might have pasta or rice, he fills his plate up with lots of vegetables, and might add a sweet potato, or quinoa.
Finding a Healthier Middle Ground with Exercise
A former college baseball player, Peter had exercised sporadically in recent years. “I was a runner in the past but my biggest mistake is that I have failed to do things in moderation,” he said. “I’m an all or nothing person.”
At one point, he ran two marathons in 13 days. “This time, I was committed to listening to my mind and body, and finding a healthier middle ground,” he added.
After being cleared by his doctors, Peter started walking 20 minutes a day, working up to 45 minutes a day after a few months. When he reached 200 pounds, he started jogging and five months after his stroke, ran the Pro Football HOF Marathon with a Mercy relay team. On the days that he’s not running, Peter lifts weights before work.
The More You Do It, the More You Appreciate It
Overcoming stress was a challenge for Peter as he began his wellness journey. “I had to take steps to stop being anxious about my health every waking moment after the stroke,” he said.
Transcendental Meditation, a technique for avoiding distracting thoughts and promoting a state of relaxed awareness, has been a game changer for Peter.
“I was always interested in it so I found a local instructor, and took a class. It’s a great tool, once you’ve learned it. You can take it anywhere and do it any time. The more you do it, the more you appreciate it,” he said.
Every day, Peter meditates for 20 minutes before he gets out of bed, then meditates for another 20 minutes after work. When he skips meditation, he notices a difference. He said, “My whole health changes for the negative.”
Getting consistent sleep, seven hours or more, is also part of Peter’s wellness routine. He calls it the best best foundation for the day.
A Turning Point
While traumatic, Peter’s stroke was a turning point for him. “It took a while for me to see that the bad experience has made me better and that I’ve learned from it,” he said. “I need to be here for my family so I’m doing what I can to take control of my health. I’m not doing this just to fit into my pants or look better. I want to feel my best. It’s not worth it to feel bad or be in a hospital bed. I need to remember how I felt because I don’t want to go back.”
Don’t Let Yourself Down
Peter’s advice: Decide when you’re going to start your wellness journey and commit to it. “Don’t let yourself down. Make you your most important focus,” he said.
The key to sticking with your routine, he said, is keeping life in balance and remaining calm in times of setbacks.
“Right now, I’m dealing with a ham string pull and I’m working through it calmly to stay on the right path,” he said. “It helps to be in a constant state of self-awareness to be able to make small adjustments. Pay attention to your body and look inward, and I guarantee that you’ll see results.”