Supine on a gurney after his fourth heart attack a year and a half ago, Steve Driscol never imagined that in August 2013 he would summit the highest mountain peak in the contiguous United States. In 1987 he had his first heart attack and the two that followed originated from an artery at the bottom of his heart—attacks that he had predicted based on changes in his breathing and increased fatigue. When the fourth one came it generated in a different artery, one that could have killed him. His tenacious nature compelled Steve to defy doctors who had patted the successful entrepreneur on the shoulder and sent him packing with a plethora of prescription pills; they didn’t think he’d ever change his lifestyle.
Encouraged by his daughter, Heather, an “Ironman” who had lost over 110 pounds, Steve decided to alter his own life. The transformation would include a goal to be his doctor’s first patient to ever reverse the coronary artery disease infiltrating his heart. With the help of his daughter, Steve embarked on a metamorphosis that included an unexpected bonus—a new and improved bond with Heather. More comfortable parenting his three sons, Steve had struggled relating to his daughter.
With Heather in the lead, roles reversed and Steve learned from his daughter. She taught him about nutrition. She taught him how to listen to his body. She taught him to challenge himself. The two trained for Mount Whitney for over five months by hiking up one of Southern California’s 6-pack of peaks every three to four weeks. On that first hike, the first hike of Steve’s life when he didn’t think he could go on, Heather pointed to a tree 30 yards ahead and said, “Dad, just make it to that tree.” And he would. Steve lost 47 pounds, changed his diet, and formed a bond. “The past six months I gained a phenomenal connection with my daughter as we climbed mountains together.”
Symbolic to metaphorical mountains that Steve has conquered in his life, he summited Whitney alone when three of the six in his group hung back to tend one struck by altitude sickness; two more had forged ahead. What a moment approaching the ridge where he stood 14,505 feet above sea level, mountain high. Steve squinted into the sun, “I’m living an unbelievable dream.” Thoughts of gratitude melted with views of majesty as Steve experienced an, “impossible to put into words” sense of accomplishment; he felt truly alive.
It was as if he could touch the sun itself up there, and share an intimate moment with God—thank Him for his life—thank Him for seeing him through his 23rd year of sobriety—thank Him for giving him the sense to remove the barrel of a 44 magnum from his mouth when alcoholism had torn him apart. If it weren’t for the guidance of his higher power, Steve Driscol would have missed a meeting with the sun, would have missed around 725,328,000 heartbeats—a father would have missed knowing his daughter.