“This June 20th will be five years since my father died unexpectedly of a heart attack at age 64. I do not look forward to June. I struggle thinking back to hearing “your father’s gone” at 10:30 PM that Tuesday. As fate would have it, I was in New York for work in May 2017, almost exactly one month before he passed. We got tickets to go to a Yankee game on May 22. I still have his voicemail from May 21 asking for details on where we’d meet up to enter the stadium. I remember the Yankees won 4-2 over the KC Royals. I took a selfie with him at one point, which I almost never do, and I cherish that photograph so much. After the game I walked him to his car, and that was the last time I ever hugged my father.” – Lee Rogers
June is Men’s Health Awareness Month, which focuses on highlighting awareness of preventable health problems as well as encouraging early detection and treatment of disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men in the United States, amounting to approximately 1 in every 4 male deaths. And according to the CDC, half of the men who die suddenly from coronary heart disease had no previous symptoms.
After the heartbreak of losing his father, Lee Rogers, Sr. Security Engineer at Truveta, has found a new passion for men’s health issues. Read on for our Q&A with Lee.
How did your dad’s passing impact the way you viewed your own health?
It wasn’t until he died in 2017 that I really started taking my own healthcare more seriously, and I began to pay attention to how everything I put in my body affects me. My dad and my grandfather both died of heart attacks. I have a wife and 3 young daughters, so now I’m constantly asking myself, “how can I protect my heart?” We are trying to be as active as we can. I’ve incorporated weight training into my routine. I walk my daughters to school and try to keep sugary drinks out of the house. We aren’t perfect, but we’re paying more attention.
How often do you go to the doctor?
To be honest, I hardly ever went to the doctor before my dad passed. Now I have prioritized annual checkups and see both a primary care physician and a heart specialist.
Did you have any indication that your dad was sick when you last saw him?
Whenever I saw my dad, I always thought he looked healthy. It was a complete shock to us – he didn’t show any outwards signs of someone who might die in his sleep at age 64. Part of the reason that I wanted to join Truveta is to help enable progress around early detection of heart disease. I’m hopeful that researchers will be able to use the Truveta platform to better understand heart health and identify high-risk indicators before they become fatal. It feels meaningful to be part of an organization that can make a difference in this area.
What does saving lives with data mean to you?
It means finding answers to questions that have been asked by family members who have lost loved ones and helping those who are currently struggling with ailments that others cannot see.
What else do you remember most about your last day with your dad?
I wasn’t supposed to be in town that day. My boss ended up sending me to a conference that he was supposed to go to. My dad and I both love the Yankees, so it worked out perfectly that they were in town. My dad loved baseball, but typically he was the type of guy to want to leave by the 7th inning. For whatever reason, that day, he wanted to stay the whole game. That’s 12 more outs that we got to spend together. A month later he passed away in his sleep. It feels like something bigger than me that led me to have that special night with my dad.
What is one of the lessons he taught you that has stuck with you?
My dad always taught me to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. You never know what people are going through. The earth is bigger than the problems you have.