Heart attack survivor looks to make history by summiting Mount Everest

EDMONTON — It was during a cardio workout in 2018 when Leo Namen felt something was terribly wrong.

“And then boom…. the pain again. This time the pain didn’t go away,” Namen told CTV News Edmonton.

At just 48 years old, Namen was suffering a heart attack. His wife and son (who was with him at the gym that day) rushed Leo to the hospital where he underwent surgery.

Namen would later learn that for 47 minutes, 55 per cent of his heart had stopped and his coronary artery had a full blockage.

It was after he returned home when he realized he was facing a difficult road to recovery. An attempt to return from a trip to his basement proved too much.

“I couldn’t make it more than three stairs… no more than three steps.”

That’s when he says he believed things would never be the same again.

“I lost my identity. That was it,” explained Namen. “It was over for me in my mind.”

But it was far from over.

With the support of his family, a psychologist to treat his depression, and a survivors support group, Namen worked his way back to a complete recovery – both mentally and physically. Today he has his sights set on conquering the world’s tallest mountain.

“I thought there is always a good opportunity for us to take a bad moment, a bad experience, a nightmare and make it into a good thing,” said Namen.

The man who had climbed dozens of mountains since his teen years was originally scheduled to climb Everest in 2020. Then came COVID-19.

He’s back to spending up to eight hours a day training for the big climb, which begins later this month.

“This is one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever faced in my life,” said Namen.

Originally from Colombia, this proud Edmontonian is now embracing the opportunity to make history.

“I’ll be the second heart attack survivor on Earth to summit Mount Everest,” explains Namen. “The first Canadian and the first North American. I’ll be the first Latino-Canadian to ever summit Mount Everest after a heart attack.”

Namen is raising funds to help offset the cost of the trip, which in turn will raise money and awareness for heart and stroke research.

He beat the odds once and now looks forward to his ascent from the lowest of lows… to the top of the world.

“This is a good opportunity to do something really remarkable and to me there’s nothing more remarkable than Everest. It’s the pinnacle.”

You can find more information about Namen’s cause online.

With files from CTV Edmonton’s Amanda Anderson 

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