Robert gets a second “second chance”
Robert Gonzales, 42, was determined to get in good physical condition. He had suffered a major heart attack a few years prior and knew he needed to lose weight and eat right. To start things off on the right foot, he and some friends formed a workout group to support each other. A buddy who owned a gym offered to do a fitness assessment.
“I did well with all of the exercises until I got to the treadmill,” Robert said. “About 10 seconds into the run, something didn’t feel right.”
At first it felt like pressure in his chest; then it became stabbing pain and he started sweating profusely. After water and rest didn’t help, Robert’s friend gave him an aspirin and called 911. Robert’s condition continued to deteriorate.
“I started feeling very sleepy and I was getting tunnel vision,” he said. The EMTs arrived and immediately began trying to jump-start Robert’s heart. “They got me on the stretcher and took me to Baptist Beaches where an entire medical team was waiting for me,” he said.
“Robert was in severe distress,” said Jeffrey Smowton, MD. “If not treated quickly, patients with heart attacks like this can have extensive heart damage and often it can be fatal.” Dr. Smowton and his team were able to stabilize Robert and get him ready for safe transport to Baptist Jacksonville just 38 minutes after arriving.
“Everyone around me had a job and knew exactly what they were doing,” Robert explained. “I could hear a lot of talking all at once.” One of the nurses, Deanne Clark, RN, was a calm and reassuring voice.
“She took me by the chin and said, ‘Only listen to my voice.’ I kept screaming ‘Don’t let me die!’” Deanne stayed by Robert’s side until Life Flight arrived. “I could hear the helicopter coming,” Robert said. “I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore, but Deanne kept reassuring me.”
When Robert arrived at Baptist Jacksonville, he was rushed immediately to the catheterization lab where cardiologist Marc Litt, MD, was waiting for him. “I could hear Dr. Litt reassuring me he had cleared the clot.’”
Robert had to have another stent placed in his main heart artery. This would be the second time he received a heart stent, having suffered a heart attack just three years before. “After that happened, I lost a lot of weight and changed my diet. As time went on, I gradually gained it back and stopped taking my cholesterol medication,“ he said.
Robert is serious about his health this time. He’s adopted a Mediterranean diet and walks three to five miles a day. Two children, a wife, and a passion to mentor at-risk youth give Robert a lot to live for. “Sometimes, these kids just need someone they can to talk to,” Robert said.
Through the years, Robert has mentored several teenagers. One of them is DeMarcus Walker, who is now the starting defensive end for Florida State University. He is thankful he will have the opportunity to mentor more young men.
“I am forever grateful to Dr. Smowton and Baptist Beaches for treating me so quickly in the ER and I am so thankful for Dr. Litt and the wonderful care I received at Baptist Jacksonville.
“Thank you for saving my life — again,” Robert said.