March 2008 Issue


Manny Kassam, P.Eng., spends about three hours a day on fitness, when exercise, praying and meditation are counted. Your first step, he says, could be as simple as taking a walk.
-photo by George Lee

Manny’s Next Steps

He’s changed his life since his heart attack a decade ago. Now, he’d like to help others do the same.


Just before last year’s 10th anniversary of his heart attack, Manny Kassam, P.Eng., took stock.

“It’s was big milestone,” he acknowledges. “But I asked myself, What do I have to show for the last 10 years in my life? What contribution can I make to society, now, from my own experience?”

On Nov. 28, 1997, he was a 53-year-old, busy professional, getting set to head to Edmonton from Calgary for an APEGGA subcommittee meeting. A heart attack felled him, but he recovered, went through a rehabilitation program at the Cardiac Wellness Institute of Calgary, and even ran the Royal Victoria Marathon only three years later.

His Marathon of Courage raised $14,000 for the Calgary Heart Trust. But Manny wasn’t done yet.
After Mr. Kassam and his wife moved to Edmonton, he turned his attention to volunteering at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital Foundation, an organization he eventually prompted to create the Glenrose Award of Courage. The annual award has so far been presented to two patients — a man burned in a fire at a construction site, and a soldier injured in Afghanistan.

He also changed his own life, making a commitment to heart health his priority.

Crammed into a few paragraphs, it might not seem like a lot. It was.

“I am really happy to say that I have made some difference and some progress. I have approached people and I’ve tried to spread the awareness, since the heart attack.

“But the first thing I had to do was get myself back on track. That wasn’t easy by any means.”

Mr. Kassam, now 64, continues: “I remember the days when I had to be helped out of bed, let alone to do the rest. But slowly and gradually, I managed to get well, get my strength back, and then go through the process of getting better and better, through rehabilitation and restoring my health.”

Now, Mr. Kassam is paying back the health system by spreading the word. He has created HEALing, a division of his consultancy, to conduct workshops and speak with companies, community groups and other organizations.

“We have a great health care system. Let’s make sure it’s here for our children, our grandchildren and our great grandchildren,” he says.

The resources are available to make a change now, before a heart attack strikes. And professionals are role models within their communities — APEGGA members can learn, Mr. Kassam says, from his mistake, and teach others to do the same.

To start with, do not assume you aren’t at risk. “I absolutely did not look the part. Nobody thought I would be a candidate to have a sudden heart attack. I looked after myself as much as I could, but I didn’t realize there were risk factors I hadn’t dealt with.”

He had a family history of heart disease. In fact his older brother died of a heart attack just a few years earlier. Then there’s racial predisposition. Mr. Kassam is Indo-Canadian, which makes him particularly at risk.

Those factors and age I can’t control.” What he could do was reduce stress, become more active, improve his diet and put more time towards inner peace and tranquility.

“The critical age range for heart attacks is between 55 and 60. Yet more people aged around 45 are having them. I think it’s because of their very high-stress lifestyles. They don’t take the time to look after themselves. They don’t take the time to relax,” he says.

“You have to make the time to change your life. And that has to be non-negotiable.”

The first steps, he said, could literally be steps. Start taking walks, Mr. Kassam suggests.
And you should also visit your family doctor before you begin anything to rigorous.

The effort will pay off. “I have never felt as good in my life as I feel today,” says Mr. Kassam.
If you’d like more information on what Mr. Kassam has to offer your organization, contact him at kassams@grandingreen.ca.