Survivor Story Dane Hillyard

Growing up in a family with a history of heart disease caused Dane Hillyard to prioritize his health. When he was 23 his father died in his arms of a heart attack when he was only 56 years old. Because of this, Dane always worked out regularly and ate a healthy diet, however when he was 40 years old, he started having high blood pressure and began seeing a cardiologist. At age 50 and again at 55 he underwent full cardiovascular testing and cardiac CT scans, and both found nothing wrong with his heart.

However, just a few short years later in March 2018, when Dane was 59 years old, life changed drastically. While doing his regular high intensity workouts he would feel like he was having asthma and was finding it hard to breathe whenever his heart rate would rise close to his maximum. Even though he didn’t think it was heart related, he went back to the cardiologist for another round of cardiovascular testing. The results this time were dangerous. His doctor instructed him to get to the hospital immediately.

Dane Hillyard

At the hospital, during extensive cardiovascular tests, Dane learned that he had already suffered at least one heart attack, which he had never felt any symptoms of. Additionally, the doctors discovered that his main left anterior descending artery (the widow maker) was ninety-six percent clogged. His doctor said he was lucky to be alive as he normally only sees that extensive amount of blockage in autopsies, and they call people like him a “dead man walking.” Approximately, 6,400 Nevadans die of heart disease each year.

At the hospital, Dane received a stent, that was installed through his wrist, to open the blocked artery and return the blood flow to his heart. After the procedure was completed successfully, his heart rate dropped 15 percent almost instantly. Two weeks later, he was given clearance from his doctors to go back to working out, a practice that had saved his life in more ways than he would have ever imagined.

Since surviving his heart attack, Dane has changed his outlook on life and has focused more on reducing stress, working out vigorously, and eating a healthy lower fat diet. Dane wants to be around for the moments that matter most like enjoying spending time with Bodhi, his first grandchild, watching his four children accomplish their dreams and enjoying life with his fiancé Nancy Stoltz. He talks to his children about their genetic risk for heart disease and is especially mindful of his oldest who is 32 and will soon be approaching the age when Dane started experiencing high blood pressure.

In 2019, Dane decided to take his action one step further by becoming involved with the American Heart Association as the Chair of the Heart and Stroke Walk/5K Run. He wanted to support the type of research and technology that saved his life but hadn’t been available for his dad decades earlier.

Funds raised from Heart and Stroke Walks support innovative research, set best practices for improving patient care, fight for stronger public health policies and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat the No. 1 and No. 5 causes of death in Nevada and the U.S. Come say hi to Dane at the 2019 Northern Nevada Heart and Stroke Walk/5K Run will take place Sunday, September 15 at 8 a.m. at Wingfield Park in downtown Reno. Learn more and register at