Roger Williams – Heart Attack Success Story

Matters of the heart

AN UNEXPECTED HEART ATTACK RESULTS IN A WEDDING TO REMEMBER — AND A PASSION FOR MEN’S HEALTH ADVOCACY

undefined “I had a guy come up to me and say, ‘I saw you on the news, and I want you to know that I went to the doctor because of you,’” Roger says. “It really made me feel like I’m making a difference.”

When you think of heart patients, someone like Roger Williams doesn’t usually come to mind.

Fit and active, the 49-year-old father seemed the very picture of health. That’s why he and his wife, Jennifer, were shocked when Roger had a heart attack last October — and even more shocked to discover that it wasn’t his first.

“The doctor told me I’d probably had 12 or so very small heart attacks over the last few years,” Roger says. “I didn’t think anything could surprise me more — until I found out I was going to need open heart surgery.”

A surprising diagnosis

A few years ago, Roger began experiencing intermittent bouts of intense, burning arm pain during his workouts, something he attributed to muscle injury at the time.

Fast-forward to last October, when Jennifer, who was then his fiancée, woke up in the middle of the night to find Roger sitting in their darkened bathroom, holding his arm. “I think I need to go to the emergency room,” he told her.

At Methodist Charlton Medical Center, Roger learned that his episodes of arm pain were in fact small heart attacks, brought on by a condition he didn’t know he had: multivessel coronary artery disease.

“Coronary artery disease occurs when plaque builds up inside the arteries that deliver blood to the heart, restricting the heart’s blood and oxygen supply,” explains John Jay, MD, cardiothoracic surgeon on the medical staff at Methodist Charlton. “If coronary artery disease goes untreated, it can lead to a massive heart attack or heart failure.” Dr. Jay recommended that Roger undergo triple bypass surgery.

A wedding to remember

When Roger and Jennifer first came to Methodist Charlton, they had a wedding date for December on their calendar. But as they readied themselves for Roger’s surgery, they ended up making a big decision.

“We didn’t want to go through this not being married, even if it meant giving up the church wedding and the big reception,” Jennifer says. “We already had my dress, the license, our rings, and the minister. So we decided to go for it.”

The pair tied the knot in the Methodist Charlton chapel the day before Roger’s surgery. “Even though it was last minute, a lot of our friends and family were able to join us, along with some of Roger’s nurses,” Jennifer recalls. “We had a blast!”

Making a difference

Roger Williams – Heart Attack Success Story
Following his successful bypass procedure the next day, Roger was actually able to walk from the intensive care unit to his intermediate care room, with the nurses cheering him on. That kind of encouragement followed the newlyweds throughout Roger’s hospital stay.

“The nurses went above and beyond to keep our spirits up,” Jennifer says. “One would play Katy Perry’s ‘Roar’ on her phone, for example, when he took his daily walk around the floor. Whether it was coming to our wedding or staying up all night to keep Dr. Jay posted after Roger’s surgery, the staff consistently blew us away with their professionalism and compassion.”

Within a month of his surgery, Roger was able to return to limited activity, which, in addition to a new low-sodium, low-fat diet, included a newfound passion for men’s health advocacy.

“Men are terrible at taking care of their health,” Roger says. “So I’ve reached out to all of my friends and shared my story on social media and even TV. I tell everyone how important it is to get yourself checked out regularly, especially if you think you might have a problem.”

Roger says friends and strangers alike have let him know that his story inspired them to schedule a checkup.


From the summer 2017 edition of Shine magazine.