My name is Paul Chatlin. I was born in Detroit, Michigan and have lived in West Bloomfield, Michigan since 1971. I am 60 years old. In May of 2013, I was diagnosed with Heart Disease. One artery was 100% blocked and two others were 65% blocked. Add to that leaky valves, an enlarged heart, the thickening of the right side of my heart, a left bundled branch block and heart murmur, and I was in seriously bad shape. I could not walk more than 10 steps without excruciating pain in my chest. They did not know if I needed a heart transplant or bypass surgery. I kept praying that this was not happening to me!
I promised that if I could find a way to not have this surgery, I would give back to others. I called it my “gurney promise”. After the heart catheter procedure, a heart transplant was ruled out. I needed triple bypass surgery. My cardiologist gave me two options: bypass surgery or try “Plant Based Nutrition” (PBN). When I said I would try anything other than surgery, he picked up his cell phone while I was being wheeled toward surgery. He called Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn who picked up the phone at 11 p.m. to talk to my doctor. I never knew that Dr. Esselstyn was his mentor in medical school. I was handed the phone and heard Dr. Esselstyn say “go on home and I will call you in the morning”. As I look back I realized that this was the first time I met my cardiologist or Dr. Esselstyn. Quite a leap of faith!
At 8:00 the next morning, Dr. Esselstyn called me and we spoke for an hour. Thus began my Plant Based Nutrition transition. After just 3 weeks my angina disappeared. My cholesterol levels dropped from 347 to 127 in just one year. Today, it is at 100. I have lost 65 pounds, have kept it off and I feel great! I was given 3 miracles. 1. Getting into the Cleveland Clinic in just 3 weeks. 2. Being assigned to a doctor (it could have been so many other doctors) whose mentor was Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn. (I still can’t call him Essy even though he has given me permission to!) 3. Dr. Esselstyn picking up the phone so late that night. It was time to give back!
I attended a Plant Based Cooking Class hosted by the Esselstyns. After all, I was not a cook and did not have a clue about this lifestyle change. The cost was $975.00. I tried to have Blue Cross/Blue Shield reimburse me but was denied. So I thought, “Hey, this is what I can do to give back!” So for the next 3 months I tried to work with BC/BS with no luck. After escalating to the highest level I was denied because they did not have a pay code assigned for cooking classes, and they suggested I work with the legislature for any hope of future change. I pointed out the absurdity of their being willing to cut a check for $125,000 for bypass surgery rather than reimburse me $975.00 so I can learn how to cook Plant Based and insure I never need surgery. It was then I realized the system is broke and I needed a bigger voice. Plant Based Nutrition Support Group was born.
I was still not well. My doctor told me I needed 60-90 days of bed rest to help shrink my enlarged heart and he believed this would stop my valves from leaking. During my bed rest, depression started to creep into my life. I am a dreamer, so depression and negative thoughts where very new to me. I felt as though I was all alone! I decided to put a small ad in the local paper, inviting anyone who was interested to hear my story, see my cupboards and be connected to me. The ad looked something like this:
"I would like to share my experience with any person in our community who may be considering a nutritional change before pills or procedures. Who should consider this type of nutritional change? Any person who has had bypass surgery and hopes that a change in eating habits may prevent additional surgery. Any person who is in need of bypass surgery but would like to change their diet to Whole Food Plant Based in hopes of not needing surgery (like me). Any person whose family has a history of Heart Disease and wishes to alter their current diet to possibly avoid health issues down the road. Any person with Type 2 Diabetes. Any person who would like to try a weight loss program that does not starve you and is sustainable "
In just 2 days 20+ people contacted me and I invited them to my house. What a wonderful evening we had! Some of these wonderful people are still PBNSG members today. Each person attended felt just like me. Alone but hopeful. I did this the following month and another 20 people attended. I thought we must start a Whole Food Plant Based support group to help others. I contacted all of the current Chiefs of Cardiology in our area. I asked them to give me 3 names of cardiologists' that may be interested in educating our community on the benefits of Whole Food/Plant-Based Nutrition. They gave me 3 names. Dr. Joel Kahn was the only one that was repeated by all 3. I called him and we met. It was like at first site. That day Dr. Kahn agreed to assist me on this journey!
In February of 2014, we held our first PBN Support Group meeting. I thought that 20-40 people would be a great showing. 123 people attended! 23 people signed up as volunteers. The meeting was held at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan. On March 24th, we held our second meeting. I thought there would be a significant drop off of participants, but I was wrong! We again had over 110 people attend. What was interesting is that of the 110 people, 44 of them were new faces. This means that we now had over 220 people in our support group and 40 volunteers. In both April and May we continued to grow and today we have over 5,100 members and over 70 volunteers! We also needed a larger auditorium, so we alternated between two Birmingham High School auditoriums, and we built a web page (www.pbnsg.org). We currently have a presence on Facebook , Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.
We have started various outreach programs. One of them is our Medical Course curriculum, which we have just presented to Wayne State University Medical School. The authors were 1st and 2nd year medical students from Wayne State, Eastern Michigan, Oakland University, Michigan State Universities and the University of Michigan medical schools. The information is available. Please contact me directly if interested.
PBNSG has relationships with the owners of 30 local restaurants with special plant compliant menus for our members. In 2018, we will conduct over 46 educational classes. Half of these will be cooking classes. We have 30 Small Groups statewide for members who are new to a plant based diet, and want a safe place to discuss their journey. We have created a Plant Based Manual called Healthier Together, which is an 80+ page document on how to start a Plant Based group in your city. This came from my personal diary over a 2 year period. With special thanks to Stephanie Vail we have completed the manual and will make it available by emailing me directly (firstname.lastname@example.org).
I have had the honor and privilege to speak to over 5,000 medical students over the past 4 years. I think about what world changes could occur if just 10% of those future doctors use nutrition as the first line of health improvement before pills or procedures. Lives affected could be in the billions since most doctors practice for 30+ years and see 20+ patients a day. Each success will be talked about and shared. By default the beneficiaries would be our planet and animals.
PBNSG also conducts nutritional tours at grocery stores, runs a walking club, and was selected to host the National Pre-release of “Eating You Alive”. In 2017 we started a new initiative called Doctors teaching Doctors. Four local doctors have offered to teach any doctor, nurse or health professional the benefits of a Whole Food Plant Based Diet. With the leadership of Dr. Robert Breakey, 73 doctors have attended and we still have 35 on the waiting list. With more resources, this program could be reproduced in every city and state in the nation.
No more excuses about not learning nutrition in school, Let PBNSG teach you! Over the past 2 years, I have spoken at 14 General Motors locations and 20 Beaumont Hospital locations, one of the largest health care complexes in the state. You see I am a dreamer! It was my sincere hope that if one hospital or one big company would adopt an awareness of the benefits of WFPB, not only would their productivity improve, but so would their bottom line. By the way last year my wife and I paid close to $2000 in medical insurance and I only spent $188 in medical bills. Why? WFPB!