Heart Attacks and Comebacks, or How I Spent My Summer Vacation

The No-More-Tears Pie Pastry Course

Recipe Development

This is a pie blog, not a personal diary, a place where you have every right to expect to find sage pie making advice – something I’ve done a pretty poor job of delivering these last few months.

And while this isn’t a personal diary, The Pie Academy often does feel to me like a 3,000 strong community of pie making friends.

I get kind emails from you and lots of great questions that keep me on my pie game. You send me your pie photos, and you order pie boxes, my autographed cookbooks, and rolling pins from our online store. (Thank you! See below.)

Still, running a blog is a lot of work. There’s copy to write, recipes to test, photos and videos to shoot, emails to answer and packages to send out. All of this while you’re writing yet another cookbook and have your hand in other projects, too.

Perhaps counterintuitively, my heart attack has energized me. I feel incredibly grateful to be here. The burnout has passed and I feel invigorated.

Don’t get me wrong: I love all of it. But even when you love something you can run out of steam, and I think that’s precisely what happened to me early this summer when I went weeks…then months…without staying in touch with you or adding anything new to The Pie Academy site.

Then August 3rd Happened…

Like so many other summer mornings here in Wilmington, NC the weather this past August 3rd was glorious. It was the start of yet another seemingly uneventful day in a string of sixty five, 90° plus days we had here this summer. I was settling into my couch with my morning coffee and iPad when I felt a slight burning sensation in my chest, like a hot cramp.

I tried stretching it out – probably just another morning twitch – but it soon became apparent that this was no garden variety pain.

Understand that this all went down just several weeks after I’d completed a thorough physical; everything had checked out. My cholesterol was in the normal range. I had no chest pains, nothing at all to indicate there was cause for alarm.

But alarmed I was. The pain intensified and – without mentioning anything to my wife Bev just yet – I ate some aspirin. I never imagined that I was at risk for a heart attack, but at 61 I’d heard enough about the signs to realize I was in trouble.

The pain kept coming. I told Bev to call 911, and fast.

By the time the paramedics arrived a short time later I was in excruciating pain. It felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. Within moments the paramedics had me hooked up to a portable monitor which spit out a piece of paper confirming that I indeed had a blockage – a 100% blockage, it turns out – in my left anterior descending artery. (I’ve since learned that this is such a common location for a blockage that it’s sometimes referred to as “the widow maker.”)

Alas, Bev would not become a widow that day and I, after several touch-and-go days in the Coronary Care Unit and another couple out of it, would be sent home to rest, the proud owner of a new stent to unblock my clogged artery.

Three weeks later I began my cardiac rehab. By then I had lost 15 pounds and, as of today, have lost another 10. I’m down to about 204, not bad for a fellow who is 6’4”.

Me – 25 pounds heavier – showing off a Swiss Chard Galette at last year’s Lowcountry Pie Getaway in Charleston.

To see me now, you would not know or perhaps not believe that less than two months ago I experienced a potentially fatal heart attack. I look great, if I say so myself, and I feel even better.

I’m working out – something I’d always been lazy about but now look forward to. I’ve made some important changes to my diet (which still includes pie!)  I have a spring in my step and my overall stamina is better than it’s been in years. (I mention this in part to reassure the thirteen wonderful Pie Academy members, who will be attending our Lowcountry Pie Getaway in Charleston, SC in a few weeks, that I won’t be sleeping on the job.)

Indeed, let me reassure all of you that The Pie Academy will move forward and continue to add great new content that you’ll soon notice. My respite has given me time to reflect on the weaknesses and strengths of The Pie Academy and just how I can improve the user experience for our members and visitors. (Suggestions welcome!)

Perhaps counterintuitively, my heart attack has energized me. I feel incredibly grateful to be here. The burnout has passed and I feel invigorated. I’ve renewed my vow to make The Pie Academy the single best online source for passionate pie makers.

I sincerely hope you’ll stick around for the ride. It wouldn’t be the same without you. Thanks – from the heart! – for being a valued member of The Pie Academy. I’m so glad you’re here.

Thanks from the heart...from Ken Haedrich, Dean of The Pie Academy

Speaking of Pie Boxes and Our Online Store…

Aside from my cookbooks, our pie boxes are by far the most purchased item in our online store.

Southern Living magazine gave them a shout out last year; we recently had a movie production company in Canada order three dozen of our wedge boxes, for who knows what; and we hear from lots of you how they’re just the ticket for gifting pies – mini, whole, and slices.

If you’re a pie giver, or would like to be one, do yourself a favor and check them out. The fall pie season is upon us.

Our most popular new box is our 10″ by 10″ Autumn Scene Pie Box with an adorable fall motif die cut lid. Bev and I will use a ton of these between now and the holidays. (If you lived closer, you might be the recipient of one of our pumpkin spice, apple crumb, or maple pecan pies.) Our single slice wedge boxes are perfect for individual portions. 

Autumn Scene pie box at ThePieAcademy.com

If you need a nudge, here’s a special incentive: Purchase $50 or more in merchandise from our online store in October – pie boxes, books, anything – and we’ll give you free lifetime access to our hot selling No-More-Tears Pie Pastry Course, a $19.95 value (and the price is going UP soon.) Can’t beat that deal.

(You don’t need to do anything. We’ll sign you up automatically when we receive your order.)

That’s all for now. Stay in touch!

Ken Haedrich, Dean of The Pie Academy

P.S. – I couldn’t sign off without expressing my sincere gratitude to all of the incredible health care professionals who tended to my care recently at the New Hanover Regional Medical Center here in Wilmington. From the EMTs to my cardiology team, to all of the nurses, aides, and the great crew at the cardiac rehab center, I can’t thank you enough.