Truck driver Homando Goldsmith, 36, never thought he could have a heart attack so young. The Mauldin native had been a college fullback and loved exercise in his younger days, but years of unhealthy eating and a sedentary lifestyle finally caught up with him. One day in September 2011, in the final few miles of his route, Goldsmith felt numbness in one of his arms. Minutes later, he began suffering from shortness of breath and a growing pressure in his chest. As he was pulling into his destination, Goldsmith realized he might be having a heart attack. He immediately called 911.
First responders got Goldsmith to GHS’ Greenville Memorial Hospital where cardiologists inserted a stent to stop his heart attack. He had 90% blockage in one of his cardiac arteries.
Homando Goldsmith works hard to keep his heart healthy after suffering a heart attack in 2011.
Soon after his release from the hospital, Goldsmith started the Heartlife rehabilitation program. He quit smoking and followed the program to the letter. The result – a nearly 40-pound weight loss in three months!
“I feel better than I have in years,” remarked Goldsmith. A few months ago, I could hardly play with my son without getting fatigued. Now, I can run circles around him. I don’t think I could have done it without the Heartlife program.”
He continued, “Never in a million years did I think I’d have a heart attack. My eyes were opened. Now I tell my family and friends to not make my mistake, that they should to go their doctor for a check-up and make health a priority.”
Brandie knows from personal experience the importance of seeing her cardiologist regularly. When Brandie was only two months old, she had open heart surgery to correct a heart defect that had been past down by her mother. Following her initial surgery, Brandie continued to see a pediatric cardiologist, but that changed when she turned 18.
When Brandie turned 18, she lost her insurance and became unable to afford the specialty care she needed. She realized just how important it was once she lost it. When she was pregnant with her daughter, she received Medicaid and she was able to see a cardiologist during her high risk pregnancy. Her daughter, Deja, was also born with a heart defect and had open heart surgery when she was only 5 months old. Both mom and daughter did well after Deja’s birth and surgery and they continued on with their lives, but Brandie once again lost her health insurance coverage.
Over the next few years, Brandie would visit the Emergency Room with different signs and symptoms related to her heart condition – unable to afford her cardiology appointments. During one of those ER visits, she thought she was having a heart attack. Doctors determined that she wasn’t having a heart attack, but the pressure of her heart had fallen dangerously low and a heart cath confirmed she had several blockages. During this visit, doctors determined Brandie had congestive heart failure and Brandie wound up in the operating room once again to receive a defibulator and an extra lead for her pace maker to help strengthen her heart.
Since her latest surgery last September, Brandie feels stronger, less tired and is working hard to make life changes and now eats healthier and has stopped smoking.
When asked about the care she has received she was overwhelmed when thinking about the support and care she has received from the nurses to the doctors at Greenville Health System.
“If it weren’t for these services and the supportive care team, I don’t know if I would be here,” said Brandie. “Thank you to the staff that have helped bridge my care from childhood to adulthood and who have helped me navigate a difficult disease not only for me, but for my daughter.”
Her experience has allowed her to see the difference her own voice can make when sharing her story with others. Brandie is an advocate for heart disease and a wearer of red not only during February’s Heart Health Awareness month, but year round. Brandie volunteers her time by speaking with community groups about her illness, raising awareness for heart health and even has plans to begin planning small fundraisers to benefit Greenville Health System’s heart programs.
Ron Vergnolle is a healthy 40-year-old father of three and has always been active. In fact, he jogged to the Greenville Health System Life Center Health and Conditioning Club on the day his heart stopped.
While drinking out of the water fountain, Ron collapsed. He had a sudden cardiac arrest, a condition that claims more than 300,000 lives annually.
“If he had the cardiac arrest on the bike in Cleveland Park, things would have been much different,” said Britt, Ron’s wife. “The fact that it happened 10 feet from an AED (Automated External Defibrillator) was truly a miracle.”
Almost immediately after Ron collapsed, Life Center staff took action. Jim Gillespie, the conditioning supervisor for the GHS Life Center, used the AED to deliver a shock to reactivate his heart.
Since that day, Ron underwent bypass surgery and had a defibrillator implanted in his chest. He remains active, exercising and cycling all over the Upstate. He even created a 274-mile charity ride to raise funds to purchase AEDs for Greenville. His goal is to make them widely available in highly trafficked public areas such as government buildings, parks, and sporting complexes.
Greenville Health System shares Ron’s commitment to accessible AEDs in the community. The Start a Heart, Save a Life program initiated by the Greater Greenville Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Greenville Class of 31 has placed more than 100 AEDs in Greenville County.
Heart Life makes a difference for Cindy. Here’s her story, in her own words:
When I was 42, I suffered my first heart attack. I was healthy, I practiced good eating habits, I led a healthy lifestyle, and the only risk factor I had was a family history of heart disease.
At work one day, I began experiencing jaw pain, and the next morning I was recovering from triple bypass surgery. It had never occurred to me that I could suffer a heart attack.
After surgery, I began the recovery process by going to the Life Center fitness club, and participating in Heart Life, a GHS program that teaches participants to live a heart healthy lifestyle through medically directed exercise, nutrition counseling, and stress reduction. It is one of the top cardiac prevention and rehabilitation programs in the country.
At Heart Life, I learned that patients with existing heart problems can reduce their risk of additional complications with the program. It can even help patients reverse the effects of heart disease.
Despite all of my precautions, I awoke from sleeping and knew that I was having another heart attack. The only course of action was to have another bypass surgery.
Heart disease is part of my everyday life now, and it is my goal to spread the word about the importance of heart health education and disease prevention. I still do everything possible to take care of myself and prevent further heart problems.