Same spot, same routine, different life

By Maria Lattanze
March 8, 2020

“By the time I was walking across the backyard, that’s when it hit me,” John Lattanze said. “It was like somebody hit me very hard in the chest and I just went down.  I struggled to get up and it felt like my chest was in a vice and it wasn’t necessarily painful, I just couldn’t get any relief from the pressure that was in my chest.”

* * * * * * *

A resident of Bridgeport, Pennsylvania, a loving husband and father of two daughters, John Lattanze is a very hardworking individual.  He goes to work every day in order to care for his family and always places others’ needs before his.

Beau (right) and Beni (left) love spending time with their dad (John, middle)
Photo by Sarah Lattanze

“He works every day just so I can live a comfortable life,” Sarah Lattanze, the younger daughter, said. “He could be retired and living it up right now but instead he continues working so I can afford certain things and be better off financially when it comes to college.”

Sergeant Paul McLaughlin has been working in the Bridgeport Police department for over 20 years.  He worked with John Lattanze’s brother, Michael, and has got to know John Lattanze through his brother and through the Bridgeport Council which John Lattanze was a part of for some time.  Sergeant McLaughlin always makes it a point to talk to him when he sees him around Bridgeport.

“He has always been a very very nice guy,” Sergeant McLaughlin said.  “I always enjoy seeing him when he is out, and if I don’t have a call that I have to go on, I at least make it a point to pull over and talk to him for a few minutes just to see how he is making out.  He has a really good work ethic and he was always driven to get up each day and do the right thing.” 

Being hardworking can, unfortunately, cause high levels of stress from continuous work.  Working long hours also causes in lack of exercise, sleep and a proper diet.  John Lattanze works long hours and his diet was not as healthy as it should have been.

“Dad was pretty stressed,” Sarah Lattanze said. “There was a lot of family drama going on at the time and it was really getting to him. He wasn’t happy all of the time and that was kind of sad. He worked a lot, whether it was his job or doing paperwork or something.”

John (middle) always attends his two daughters, Maria (left) and Sarah, (right) sports games and events.
Photo by Lauren Lattanze

The Saturday before Easter in 2019, John Lattanze suffered a heart attack that sent him to the hospital, prompting an emergency surgery, causing him to miss Easter Sunday dinner.

The day started as any ordinary Saturday in the Lattanze residence with John Lattanze cutting the grass and his wife, Lauren, and two daughters, Maria and Sarah, cleaning and preparing for Easter dinner inside.  As John was finishing the yard work, he collapsed to the ground in pain, grabbing his chest and struggling to get up. Lauren ran outside with the two daughters. The neighbor from across the street ran over as well.

“I called the ambulance with my phone,” Lauren Lattanze said. “I talked to 911 and they told me what to do.  I gave him some baby aspirin and the ambulance and police got here pretty quick.”

Sergeant McLaughlin and his partner, Officer Shannon Sell of the Bridgeport Police Department answered the call. Responding to a call that is personal, Sergeant McLaughlin was concerned but also dialed into his job.  His partner is also a registered nurse which relieved some concern as well.

Beau chills with his dad, John Lattanze
Photo by Sarah Lattanze

“I remember the call coming in and knowing that before I got there that it was John,” Sergeant McLaughlin said. “So when I heard that call come in, it bothered me.  I remember going there and I wasn’t sure what I was walking into. When I saw your dad still conscious and alert, I got some relief but that doesn’t mean that that person is out of the woods.”

Everything afterward happened in an instant.  As Sergeant McLaughlin, Officer Sell and the paramedics cared for John Lattanze, Sarah Lattanze ran around the house, closing all the windows and locking the doors to prepare to go to the hospital.

“I remember literally standing in the street yelling at the ambulance to go around the back (of the house),” Sarah Lattanze said. “I remember the drive to the hospital and the woman at the front desk when we got there. She was really nice. She led us back to where dad was. He had about 15 doctors surrounding him.”

The heart attack required John Lattanze to go through emergency surgery to clear a blocked valve sending blood to his heart.  The surgery lasted over an hour and was a success and John Lattanze is now on the road to recovery.

* * * * * * *

“Physically I feel better,” John Lattanze said. “I just feel that at times, I lack the energy I used to have before. Overall, I feel a little weaker and I think that is due to the weight loss and muscle tone, but I thank God that there is no pain.”

After he was discharged from the hospital two days later, he went back to his regular routines.  He continued going to work every day, but was put on a strict diet and rehab program.  

“I went through three or four months of twice a week of rehab, and it went well,” John Lattanze said. “At the end of the therapy, I felt better, I felt stronger and not as guarded against every little feeling I had in my chest. I felt we were in good shape and at the end of the therapy, my overall evaluation was good and positive and was on my way to recovery.”

John practices karate with his daughter, Maria.
Photo by Sarah Lattanze

Other than rehab, John Lattanze also had to adjust his regular diet and eating-habits into a heart-healthy diet.  Lots of foods and types of ingredients were cut from his diet and replaced with heart-healthy ingredients.

Being a family, everyone in the household changed their diets as well.  Lauren Lattanze has found new recipes and new ways to cook different foods and Maria and Sarah Lattanze refrain from bringing in old eating habits and foods.  While the diet is not a favorite to any family member, it is a must in order to keep John Lattanze healthy. 

“It was a life change for all of us,” Lauren Lattanze said. “He had to adjust the way he ate.  He could not eat the same way, not that he ate poorly, but any type of change like that was difficult for all of us.  And I think that was frustrating for him, and just being down made him more depressed.”

The incident, however, did not stop him from any type of yard work.  After about two weeks of being discharged, Sergeant McLaughlin found him in the same spot in the backyard, working.  He stopped by, while on duty, to check in on his friend.

Lauren and John prepare for a night out
Photo by Maria Lattanze

“I was just happy to see someone I know, someone I admired, in a way, for a long time to be up and resuming their life,” Sergeant McLaughlin said. “In the capacity that I know him in, seeing him back in the backyard, doing exactly what he was doing the day of the incident, it was almost as if it came full circle.”

However, John Lattanze has restrictions when it comes to physical work.  He is refrained from lifting heavy objects, shoveling and he must take breaks when he works.

“If I thought he was being too strenuous I would yell at him and tell him he had to take breaks,” Lauren Lattanze said. “Specifically when he cuts the grass, but he did.  He did not overwork when he cut the grass, he took breaks and he took his time.”

When it comes time to do more strenuous work, his family steps in and helps complete the task at hand.  John Lattanze still is able to cut the grass but takes multiple breaks throughout the job. He never feels hesitation when it comes to this task, but when a larger job presents itself, he knows to take a step back and asses the job before jumping right in.

“The hardest part is facing the fact that I can’t do what I normally did before, not that I can’t but I shouldn’t,” John Lattanze said.  “I am not pushing myself whereas before it wasn’t even a factor, I just kept pushing myself until I got it done. But now it is a little different.”

In the past, he would start a job and would not stop until it was completed.  Now, he paces himself and makes sure he does not “bite off more than he can chew.”  The cause of the heart attack is still unknown, but one thing is for sure, John Lattanze is staying on track with his medications, doctor’s appointments and the new lifestyle in order to prevent any future incidents.

“I do not want another heart attack and I do not want my family to worry about me,” John Lattanze said. “So I do the best I can in keeping this diet, even though I do not like it.  I will keep up with all my medications, and try my best to not miss any.”  

From left to right, John, Sarah, Lauren and Maria celebrate Sarah’s soccer senior night.
Photo by Upper Merion High School

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Maria Lattanze

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