Heart Attack Stories – Chad Miller- We All Bleed Red.

 

Today I introduce you to Chad Miller.  Survivor at age 39.

 

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had my heart attack on August 3rd, 2012 at the age of 39.  I am a runner who has completed many half and full marathons in my lifetime and was on a 7 mile run at the YMCA after work on a Friday night.  The run was an easy pace one and I was not pushing myself very hard at all.  About half way through my run, I noticed I was sweating more than normal and had pain in my right shoulder.  I am very in tune to my own body and thought both of those were odd. However, I dismissed them as nothing very important and continued running another mile or so.  About a mile later I noticed my pain was increasing greatly in my shoulder and I was short on breath.  I still did not think much of this, but realized that was “just one of those days” where my body was not in the mood for a run and decided to hit the showers.  I was planning on meeting a friend of mine to go see a movie and would get a longer run in later in the weekend instead.   During my shower I realized a few things:  1. I was still sweating heavily 2. I could not catch my breath 3.  My shoulder hurt like hell and was starting to move slightly into the right side of my chest.  Now I was concerned.  My pain was increasing, but I was far from miserable.  I hopped in my car and decided to head toward the theater for the movie. Along the way my pain vastly started to increase.  Something was wrong. Very wrong.  My mind started running the words heart attack in it.  Surely that was not what was happening.  I was a fit, healthy young runner who ate a pretty clean diet.  I stopped at a convenience store and bought a four pack of Bayer aspirin. I chewed them up and drove myself to the ER.

 

Something was wrong, but I was not sure what it was.  When I got the ER I was in pretty bad shape.  I was light headed, sweating and my pain was very uncomfortable. It was6:30 on a Friday and for some reason the waiting room was already packed full with people needing to see a doctor.  The gal told me to take a seat and wait for my name to be called.  I firmly said “No!”.  I am in pain, something is very wrong, the pain is now in my chest and I need to be seen now.  The gal just stared at me clueless. However, another nurse was walking by, heard what I said and immediately took me into the ER.  I was hooked up to an EKG, was told I was having a heart attack and wheeled into another room to be prepped for surgery.  All hell broke loose in the prep room. I had 15+ doctors, nurses and others giving me their full attention. I was stripped naked, needles were inserted my arms, was given pills to swallow, pills to chew up and one gal even began shaving my groin area.  I was asked endless questions mostly dealing with when did I first notice the symptoms.  I can’t say my memory of all of this was the best. I was in shock.  How on earth was this happening to me?  I have friends that eat buckets of friend chicken nightly that have never had a heart attack.  Why is this happening to me?  Surgery was almost a complete blur. I was lucky that a heart doctor was on duty and free within 10 minutes of getting to the ER.  I remember being packed with ice up and down my body.  The surgery was very brief, or at least that’s how I remember it. One stent was put into my left ventricle.  I had just survived the widow maker (with a 93% death rate within the first hour) I was told.

 

I was in the hospital the next several days and there was nothing very remarkable about this time.  My story is probably no different than anybody elses while in the hospital. I was sad, mad, confused, happy to be alive, embarrassed and about any other emotion I could have.   The time between my first symptom while running to surgery was right at one hour we later calculated.  The doctor on call that weekend was a real downer of a guy. He told me I likely had extensive damage and my entire life would now be different. He also said I would never run again.   Needless to say, I was absolutely terrified of everything he told me.

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I spent my days surfing the internet on heart attacks and eventually found the Heart Attack Survivors group that weekend.  I am one of the originals in there. I believe I was like the 55th person to join in the group that is now over 1500 people.  Back in those days, the group was small and we all really got to know each other very well.  My story of being a young athlete with a heart attack was new to the group.  I asked dozens and was also asked dozens of questions.  The group was awesome and I lived on that message board group for several months to follow. 

 

I met with the surgeon who put the stent in a week after my heart attack.  I had spent the last week of my life being convinced I was greatly damaged based on conversations with the doctor on call that weekend.  My surgeon (a true heart doctor cardiologist) assured me that was all incorrect.  He said my heart attack had been a mild one.  I had very minimal plaque in my heart and my heart attack was caused by a small fatty deposit rupture. His exact words were “your heart was kind of a fluke”,  He said I would need testing to confirm it, but he expected no permanent damage.  He also said it was his opinion that it would be unlikely I would have another heart attack until I was much older.  I later did a number of tests EKG, Echocardiogram, stress test etc to confirm that was all correct.  I have an ejection fraction rate of 60 and ended up with no damage at all from my heart attack. 

 

All the news I received after my heart attack was good news. However, for the next 2-3 months I went into true depression.  I cried almost constantly and convinced myself I was going to die soon and would never see my daughters grow up.  Every minor twinge of pain in my body had me convinced I was going to have another heart attack.  I went to cardio rehab and I was the youngest person there by 30+ years. It was not uncommon for me to cry while walking on the treadmill at rehab.  Physically I was fine, but mentally I was crumbling.  Looking back, I should have been on antidepressants during this stretch probably.  Then one night I watched my favorite movie of all time Shawshank Redemption for like the 50th time again.  The phrase “get busy living or get busy dying” stuck in my head the next few days. What the hell was wrong with me?  I was wasting my life away and had been given a second chance at life. To put it simply,  I was wasting my second chance God had given me.  

Suddenly I was embarrassed with my behavior.  It was time to get my shit together again.  I was almost done with cardio rehab and went in the next day and announced I was running that day on the treadmill after they had already hooked me up to the sensors for my walk on the treadmill.  The nurses looked at my panicked and told me the hospital does not allow running for cardio rehab patients. I ignored them and started cranking up the speed. It was time to go for a one mile run.   I will admit I was freaking terrified during that run.  The nurses ran off to get a doctor and the doctor and nurses all watched a bunch of monitors feeding information from the sensors hooked up to me during that mile.  I took a relaxed pace, but I ran and they could not do a thing in the world to stop me.   At the end of my mile they said all was good and I was now graduated from rehab.  I expected them to be mad, but they laughed and said I was now the first person in the hospitals history to run while in cardio rehab. 

My doctor had already given me the all clear to run again and off I went in the weeks that followed. .  For the next week I did several 1 milers.  The following week I did 1.5 milers. I soon ran a 5k. Shortly after I ran a 10k. And then 163 days after my heart attack,  I finished a half marathon.  I have finished a pile of half marathons since my heart attack, but am not longer sure I have the desire to do a full again. Maybe someday.   

From Heart Attack Survivor to Marathon Finisher

Heart Attack Survivor to Marathon Finisher ( Goofy Challenge Finisher)

39.3 MIles ( 63.25 Kms) , 2 Days, 4 Theme Parks.  3 Medals. 1 Moment of RAW Emotion.  

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His name is Mark.  At age 38 , he is now a Marathon Finisher.  It did not come without struggle, committment and hard work.

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Friends are a big part of what makes this whole experience so special ! Left to Right: Diane, Tracy, Cynthia, Nicki !

One week prior to his 36 birthday he suffered and survived a Heart Attack.  Four days later he went into Cardiac Arrest during surgery to place 2 stents in his heart.  Only one was placed due to this event.  He continues to live with another 70 % blockage in the main artery to his heart but this doesn’t stop him from living and trying to reach new limits.

For the next 2 years and 5 months he went through Cardiac Rehab, made a few lifestyle changes, lost 30 lbs and got back to one of his passions.  Running.  Mark will admit that none of it was easy and there were some days of having to push beyond what he thought he was capable of.

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On January 10th, 2016 in the Happiest Place on Earth, Walt Disney World, Mark became an official Marathon Runner and Finisher.  Equally as important he completed the Goofy Challenge which requires a runner to do a Half Marathon (13.1 Miles or 22 Kms.) the day before.  Some would call this crazy, I guess that is why they call it Goofy.

In 2013 he attempted this same challenge and did not finish.  Due to pacing requirements he just wasn’t fast enough to avoid being swept off the course.  Some people say they were closing things early because of extreme heat and humidity.  “ It doesn’t matter the circumstance, I just was not fast enough and that race, unknown to me would set the tone for my year.  I failed but knew I would try again.  I just didn’t think it would take me three years to get back here to do it.”

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All Business !

 

On his Marathon Finish Mark said “This was by far one of my hardest and most proud moments in life.  I cried like a baby knowing I was going to finish a Marathon.  I saw my friend Jennifer, a woman who I respect, admire and love for how encouraging and supportive she has been. I believe around Mile 24.

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Jenn and I ! I love this woman, such an amazing friend !

She gave me some beer.  Yes I drank a beer and it tasted like heaven.  Shortly after I hugged her and went on my way, tears began to fall. “

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The course was not without it’s challenges.  From mile 19-20  he had to fully walk because his heart rate was not recovering as quickly as he had hoped.  It is the only point in the race where he thought that he may have to pull himself as his heart rate seemed to not dip back below 125 beats per minute on rest moments.  Thankfully his heart rate eventually went down enough to keep going on.  “6.2 miles to go, it became harder and I began run/ walk more frequently.”

To run a Marathon requires commitment, a commitment that most won’t give.  For the last 9 months he trained while most were sleeping.  Midnight and 2 am runs, sometimes he’d go earlier but that was rare. “Some people totally understood and others not so much.”  Opinions began to not matter to me. This was not about other people, it  was all about me.  I was dedicated to finishing, so dedicated that I eventually stopped wearing my Fitbit on those late night runs.  I kinda wanted to ensure I was challenging no one but myself. I was obsessed to say the least.”

The race started around 5:30 am with the first wave of runners set to go.  Mark was in Corral M.  4 corrals up from the last, he knew he had to go hard in the beginning as to not fall behind and risk being swept.  By the time it was his turn to cross the start line, the time was closer to 6:20 am.

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Corral M, I’ve got this !

Off went the fireworks and  it was now time to put all that training to the test.  He was nervous but not afraid, strong , focused but most importantly no matter the result, prepared to ensure he still had fun.  “ I stopped for a few photos with people who had funny signs, looked on in envy of those who had time to stop to take photos with characters but still felt like a kid seeing the Disney characters on the course. I did eventually get my chance at a couple of character photos but that reward would wait until I knew I was going to finish the race.”

The first 13 Miles seemed to be the easiest according to Mark.  13 miles was a distance he was use to as he had run half marathons in the last but only once since his Heart Attack.   As he continued he did experience some knee pain but was able to overcome that by stopping at Medical tents and utilizing bio freeze which numbs the area.  He credits that with allowing him to focus on the race and not the pain.

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The Half Marathon Portion on Saturday Jan 9th as a part of the Goofy Challenge. 66 kms in 2 days 🙂

As the remaining miles went by it seemed like forever, he began to run/ walk more frequently but still maintain a pace that was healthy and that would help him succeed.

How did you feel when you knew you were at the point where you absolutely knew you were safe and were going to finish the race without the fear of being swept ? 

“  That moment is when I got through the ESPN zone, the most boring part of the course.  I left ESPN and shortly encountered Mile 22.  The Mile in which I was swept in 2013,  I saw the buses  that were parked there for those who would not finish this race sometime later.  I gave those buses the two middle fingers, smiled and kept going.  It was such a good feeling to know that I was now safe and the race was now mine to finish.

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At Mile 26. The time is from the official start time. My final Time was 6hrs 47 min, 13 seconds.

 

To finish this story, I will now leave third person and talk as myself. 

As I entered Hollywood Studios my pace slowed, was is my sense of security ?  No, I was tired and wanted to ensure a strong finish.  They say with hard work comes reward.  What was my reward before finishing?  I worked so hard and skipped some character stops that I would have loved to do.  Then I saw Boo from Monsters Inc.  I had to stop for this photo, at least one, for me.  Shortly after  I saw the Genie from Aladdin outside the boardwalk and I was ecstatic that I could have my photo taken with him.  There is a quote in Aladdin that I love . “ But oh, to be free, such a thing would be greater than all the magic and all the treasures in the world.”  This sums up how I felt crossing the finish line.

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Boo and the Genie !

 

I came running around that 26 mile marker and shortly saw that finish line in front of me.  I wanted to stop and admire what was before me but I could not, I knew I had to keep going.  As I got closer I looked into many eyes of those cheering on the runners.  I was bawling like a baby, I could not contain my tears, I forgot what it was like to actually feel emotion until that moment.  My eyes were leaking !!

Just before I reached the finish all I can remember was pushing my arms out to my side in excitement and bringing them back into my body, almost flexing and releasing every emotion I had in me.  Lucky for me the photographers caught that moment.  Here I was, after almost losing my life a couple years before, accomplishing the most physically challenging thing I have ever done in my life.  I smiled, received my Marathon Medal, hugged the volunteer and almost couldn’t let go.  I am pretty sure her shoulder is still soaked from my tears.

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ALL OF THE FEELS !! MY EYES ARE LEAKING !

Jan 10, 2016, I became a Marathoner.  I finished in 6 hrs, 47 minutes and 13 seconds.  I was not fast but I never gave up.  The training for this race began from the moment I stepped back on a treadmill 6 weeks after my heart attack. 

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“If you can Dream It, you can do it.” – Walt Disney

That feeling of finishing was worth all of the late nights,  hard work, blood, pain and listening to those who told me if I trusted them, then they would get me back as close as they could to who I was before.  That day I left it all out there and succeeded.

If anyone tells me they can’t do something, or that I can’t do something they have said it to the wrong person.  Because I will show them what I can do, what they can do….. IF,  they believe.

I may not have what others have in terms of physical capabilities but it’s not about that, it’s about my will power.  I am proud of what I accomplished but I will never settle.  I will always succeed and earn every moment of life.  I am still not a finished product, I am striving each day to always be better than I was the day before.  In my Heart I do not fear, I love as much as I can and am free.

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“ But oh, to be free, such a thing would be greater than all the magic and all the treasures in the world.” – Genie from Aladdin.

 

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The Selfie Project Part 3- Unexpected Inspiration.

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Ending on a good note.  The photo a day project.

When you take photos of yourself for 12 months straight or do anything that catches attention from people, unexpected things can happen.

I knew people would roll their eyes, maybe mock me ( which of course, did happen.)  I knew different people would like my photos ( they did.)  I knew people would say they liked the photos and make kind comments ( some did.) The one thing I did not know…..

There were a few who saw the photos and never said anything.  Until it was over.  I Inspired some people unknowingly.

4 private Facebook messages and 2 texts that went back and forth for a while.

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“I am really going to miss your pictures, they made me smile each day and made my day better, especially when I was feeling like crap.  Then, there was your face, smiling.”

“I never commented on your photos but I looked at them each day.  It was nice to see someone smile , even knowing that you probably had some bad days.  You still smiled, I liked that.” 

“ Your smiling face made my hard days better, I am going to miss that.”

“Mark, you inspired me to smile.  I had some sucky days and kept thinking, he’s smiling, so I could try.  Knowing you and talking with you every few days, I knew not each day was good and you told me that this photo thing was hard but yet, you still tried every day.”

“You are a great guy, have a nice smile, you are inspiring.  For selfish reasons, I wish you would keep doing the photos.  I had some hard days, you helped.”

“I saw you’re not going to keep posting your daily selfie. Oh no! I was enjoying them! I hope you had a good year and looks like you’re doing awesome staying healthy!”

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I didn’t embark on this project to inspire anyone, in fact, that is the LAST thing I thought would happen.  I am not one to take compliments well, nor do the words “ Inspiration or inspirational” make me comfortable.  They make me squirm actually.  I have never once thought of myself as inspiring.  I am just me, trying my best to live my life better and trying different things.  If someone gets inspired or I make someone’s day then I guess I am doing something right. 

I did love hearing that I made some people smile.  That, I am ok with hearing.  I strive to make people smile or laugh.  I love smiling, it is my favorite haha !

So what does “ Unexpected Inspiration.” teach me ? 

You or I may not strive to actively inspire but our actions, even the ones that seem crazy or dumb can affect others, motivate them, make their day or inspire them to just smile even when it is hardest for them to do.

Unknowingly people are watching our every move, even more so since the invention of social media.  What you do or say can and will impact others just by being you. 

My advice ?  Keep being you because being you is authentic and awesome. That is what I strive for.

 

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38 By 38 “To Do” List- Part 1

Inspired by Lindsay Smallwood, a friend who did this last year and blogged about it. I have decided to create my own to do list.

You can check out her blog here.  http://30for30pro.blogspot.ca/ 

What is it?  It is a list of 38 things I WILL accomplish by my 38th birthday on August 19, 2015.

Without further delay, here is the first 18 things on my to do list.  But first a Picture.

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1. My first Tattoo by my friend and artist Ashla Bee.

Ashla works for Atticus Tattoo and I have seen her work online and love her talents. I want to support friends in their endeavors and her work is amazing. I recommend you check it out their Facebook Page at:  https://www.facebook.com/atticustattoo

2. Complete my first Half Marathon post Heart Attack.

My goal is the Melissa’s Half in September. Physically I am ready for this. Mentally, I will be strong enough. I love running and love the half distance. This will be more challenging than the first one I ever completed.

3. Take a homeless person to lunch.

I actually have a particular homeless person in mind that I saw everyday close to my work downtown. I want to do this to be able to share an experience with someone who may not get a chance to have a “Fancy” kinda meal and actually listen to whatever they wish to talk about. There are so many stories behind people’s eyes.

4. Photograph and interview 10 random people who I do not know.

On the spot interview. This may be more difficult than I think. I wish to do this to test my ability to connect my passions of photography and people. I will only grow as long as I keep being comfortable approaching new individuals.

5. Take a Sushi making class.

I have wanted to do this for ages and just never got around to it. I would love to be able to make sushi from home but I want to learn from a sushi chef first.

6. Kiss a girl underwater.

Yep, you read that right. Whether in a pool or lake or ocean, I want to do this. Being single may make this tough to achieve. Any women I know want to attempt this with me? I think this would be just a fun thing to do.

7. Bake a birthday cake for a friend.

OK, I am no baker and I have attempted this and failed once. I want to try this one more time.

8. Celebrate my 37th birthday.

Those who know me well, know I hate doing things for my birthday. Not sure why but I just do. I hate the attention I think. After having a Heart Attack, I have reason to celebrate this next one for I almost did not get to my 36th.

9. Volunteer at a race.

I love race volunteers and I know how much many of them have meant to me in the brief moments I see them when I am running. Whether it be at a water station or giving out a medal, I want to experience the other side of a race.

10. Write 2 articles for www.mindbodygreen.com .

I love this website and read it regularly. I find the articles fun and inspiring and interesting to myself in creating a healthy me. I want to be a contributor at least twice.

11. Write 3 letters to friends and mail them.

Letter writing is a lost art nowadays and I cannot remember the last time I did this. So now I want to send three friends a letter with a little something special inside. I am curious as to whether they will write back.

12. Spend a night at the Palliser Hotel.

I have always wanted to do this for as long as I can remember. It is historic and a big part of Calgary. I want to feel like a king for a night by staying there. It is a hotel that is out of my price range usually but I am going to save to experience The Palliser in all her glory.

13. Say yes to everything for one day within reason.

There will be no shenanigans that will endanger or humiliate myself or others but I will accept challenges throughout the day and absolutely write about it.

14. Buy a completely tailored suit.

I have lost weight and become healthy. My current suits are too big and I wish now to buy my first completely tailored suit to match my body type. Trust me, buying a suit regularly for a guy my size is always a tough thing to do. I am awkward and I am ok with that.

15. Walk to Banff National Park and back.

Crazy idea ? Absolutely ! This is a personal challenge. I want to test myself and this is a somewhat safe way to do this. I may never walk or run across Canada ( or maybe I will ) so this is my physical challenge to me. May turn this into a fundraiser.

16. 1 month, 1 random act of kindness per day.

I am a giver, it is what is in my nature. I have been blessed many times in the last year so I want to pay it forward. I want to be anonymous and hopefully not found out 

17. Read 25 books to completion.

I love reading and sometimes I will start a book and forget to come back to it. My goal is to finish each book in full.

18. Hike Sulphur Mountain in Banff.

I have not done this since High school but remember how much I enjoyed it. It is physical challenge #2 on my list.

19. Disconnect from all social media and non work related email for one week.

I am a self confessed Social Media whore and spned more time online than is probably healthy. When I went to Cuba in April, internet was limited and I loved the few days I had with no outside contact. I found it enabled me to ease some stress and really pay attention to what was around me. Including the people who were with me. 7 days. I can do that right ?

 

What you have read here are the first 19.  Stay tuned tomorrow for the next 19.

 Life is about adventure my friends and now it is time for me to experience a little.

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Dear Universe, I am just putting this out there….

In the months since my Heart Attack I have been consumed with making my life more than it is, more enlightened, more enriched and purely enjoyable.

Now, for the most part so much has gone right.  I have accomplished in some situations, more than I could have imagined.

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You see Universe, I come to you to address and put forth one area of my life that I have struggled with for quite some time. 

Yes, two parts of my life are not what I’d wish.  My absent love life and my career, however  today I wish to focus on the other and put faith in the world that combined with my own determination and skills will be accomplished and enrich my life. 

You see Universe, I have a job.  I have a job that I am not happy with. In fact as you are aware my career has been on a downhill slope since about 2009.  Some of it my own doing some of it were circumstances out of my control.

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Since my return to work I have been more than just unsatisfied and unfulfilled.  I have been frustrated I have dreaded even walking into the building.  I have felt things that I just cannot ignore.  I am tired of being somewhere that lacks any real people focus.  Both Client and Employee.

 

 

 I realize that I am better than I give myself credit for.

 

You see Universe, I desire more.  I have tried numerous ways to find new work.  I have tried to just embrace what I have so that I am not miserable everyday in hopes that will help in my job search.

You see Universe, I am never one to give up.  The job search is no different but in my job I am almost there for more reasons than can be explained in one letter.

You see Universe, I have tried everything but this.  I have yet to ask you for your help.  Your help to show me how to align my life that will welcome a career that I will enjoy even on the tough days.  A job where I feel like I am doing something more than just lining the pockets of the executives and owners.  A job where I feel valued as an asset.  A job where I can utilize the best of me and have desire to do my best to line those pockets while making a difference in my life as well as those I am surrounded by. A job that I am proud to announce that I do and not shudder at the thought of being asked “ What do you do ?” A job where I can grow and stay for a long time.

 

You see Universe, whether I work for a big corporation or a small non profit, I just want to be utilized and taught and trained.  I am now opening my eyes, my heart to whatever may come and because I am who I am……My goal is within 3 months.

So, Universe, teach me and direct me and bring what I am trying to sow into my life in the direction of  my awareness while I continue to grow in every part of my life outside of my career.

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I have faith in myself.

I have faith in you, Universe

We can be a great team.

Let’s do this.

 

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