“Dean of Detroit Radio” Kevin O’Neill, 66, - DJ on 96.3 FM WDVD and a crewmember of “The Mitch Albom Show” on 760 AM WJR - works out for an hour, four times a week at his favorite gym. The routine boosts his stamina so he can be entertaining on the air.
He hasn’t always been this health conscious, though. Eleven years ago Kevin had open-heart surgery at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak because of dangerous blockages in his heart.
Sedentary job and lifestyle
In January 2007, Kevin resolved to improve his health by dieting and exercising. He dropped 25 pounds and felt good. In June of that year though, his long-term sedentary lifestyle caught up with him when he started feeling dizzy and vomited. He thought he was having a stroke and struggled to get to the phone to call 911. Paramedics came to Kevin’s home in Farmington Hills, strapped him to a stretcher and brought him to the Emergency Center at Beaumont, Royal Oak.
They ran a lot tests. Interventional cardiologist Steven Timmis, M.D., performed an emergency heart catheterization. Kevin said, “Dr. Timmis explained the blockages he found in my coronary arteries. One was almost 100 percent clogged, another was 80 percent.”
Dr. Timmis said, “Kevin is one of the lucky ones. He was smart to take his symptoms seriously; otherwise, he could have died from a heart attack. I admitted him for observation over the weekend and scheduled him for bypass surgery on Monday morning with cardiac surgeon Frank Shannon, M.D.”
Dr. Shannon redirected blood around sections of blocked and partially blocked arteries in Kevin’s heart to improve blood flow. The procedure involved taking healthy blood vessels from Kevin’s leg and connecting them beyond the blocked arteries in his heart.
Surgery did not cure his heart disease, but it improved Kevin’s heart function and reduced his risk of dying of heart disease. After recuperating, Kevin was prescribed a 12-week course of cardiac rehabilitation that included exercise therapy, heart disease risk factor modification and heart-healthy nutrition counseling.
Round tripping Royal Oak three times a week would be difficult for Kevin, so Dr. Timmons suggested he attend Cardiac Rehab at Beaumont Hospital, Farmington Hills, which is four miles from Kevin’s home.
Building stronger hearts and lasting friendships
The Cardiac Rehab staff took Kevin under their wing. “It took no time at all to discover how caring and motivating the staff is. When my 12-week program was up, I didn’t want to leave.”
So, he stayed on, and on and on. For the past 11 years, Kevin has paid out of pocket every month to continuously attend cardiac rehab.
Fellow patients and the staff are always entertained by Kevin, Beth Crocker, RN, said. “He sings funny parody songs, does these amazing voice characters and is a walking encyclopedia of popular music.”
Being there for 11 years has moved these relationships beyond mere acquaintance. Kevin has lasting friendships with staff and fellow patients who exercise on the same schedule. They enjoy each other’s company, tell jokes, attend each other’s family celebrations and look out for each other.
“I’m never leaving cardiac rehab,” Kevin said half-jokingly.
Ask anyone in the Metro Detroit radio community: they would tell you Kevin radiates ease and professionalism on the air. “My Beaumont heart and vascular team takes care of me in that same awesome way. Except they saved my life, and I merely talk for a living,” Kevin said.