When he looks back a couple of years, Paul Scrivano says he “had gotten too fat and too angry.” The restaurant entrepreneur weighed almost 300 pounds at 6 feet, 3 inches. At the time he was managing Blue Dog Beer Tavern in Sherman Oaks while also trying to open a new restaurant and oversee a chain of franchises, all of which he co-owns with a partner. When he learned a city inspector had issued a stop-work order on the new eatery, he now jokes, “It was time to have a heart attack.” But, in fact, that’s exactly what happened.
The moment arrived one night in March 2019 as he showed a group of vendors around the new space. He felt what he thought was a bout of gastroenteritis. He experienced a sudden wave of dizziness and weakness so severe that he asked for an ambulance. “I was not thinking heart attack,” he says, since he had none of the classic symptoms—“no clutching pain, no pain in my left arm. Just a warmth in my stomach.”
Paramedics responded to the 911 call in five minutes and delivered him to Cedars Sinai in another five. Paul recalls an ironic moment from that ride: “One of paramedics leaned down and said to me, ‘Hey, aren’t you the guy from Blue Dog?’” The medic was one of many who had eaten there over the years. Paul is a big supporter of Station 88 in Sherman Oaks (which is used as a FEMA training facility by firefighters across LA), and he routinely hosts fundraising barbecues in the restaurant parking lot.
As heart attacks go, the 54-year-old was fortunate. His was not the “widow-maker” blockage of the left artery, but instead a 100% occlusion of the right artery. He had angioplasty to open the artery and insert two stents.
Once the euphoria over not dying wore off, Paul knew he had to make changes. “I had never worked out in my life, and I ate whatever I wanted,” he says. “I hated to even bend over to pick up a napkin off the floor.” He had recurrent sciatica, and neuropathy in one of his feet. The blood pressure medication he was taking made him tired. But, he says, “My fear overwhelmed everything else—fear that I was going to gum up these stents. I had that motivation.”
Paul radically changed his diet, losing 100 pounds. “It’s beyond vegan,” he laughs. “All I eat is brown rice, edamame, avocado, blueberries, quinoa and broccoli. No salt, no sugar, no olive oil, no booze.”
Today, Paul’s cardiologist, Shervin Eshaghian, describes him as his star patient. “To his credit,” says the doctor, who heads Beverly Hills Cardiology, “he has done a tremendous job of changing his life around. He is highly motivated.”
Paul, who lives with his wife, Julie, in Agoura Hills, also began a rigorous gym regimen. Four times a week for a year, he worked out for 90 minutes with fitness trainer Bonnie Soper. “In the beginning,” she says, “it was one small triumph after another. Those triumphs got bigger and bigger. Paul made his health and fitness a priority, and it worked. It was life and death for him.”
The intensive workouts didn’t just pay off in a lean physique and ripped muscles: Paul was soon able to stop taking both his blood pressure and blood-thinner medications. His sciatic pain disappeared, and the debilitating neuropathy in his foot diminished.
His scare also incented him to revamp Blue Dog’s menu, eliminating the fatty but popular fries, and all the burgers except one. Now on the much-scaled-down menu: wraps that contains all his staple foods, and smoked salmon avocado toast. Nothing is priced over 10 bucks. Premium German and Belgium craft beer like St. Bernardus and Delirium Tremens are still available.
Paul didn’t see heaven during his near-death experience, but he is grateful to all the “angels” who helped him, and he remains committed to his new lifestyle. “I got a second chance, and I don’t want to do anything to ruin it,” he says. “Maybe I’ll write a book someday: Everyone Should Have a Heart Attack.”