For the past two years, Jorge Gonzalez, 46, had done all kinds of things to improve his health.
He lost 60 pounds. He trained to run a 5K race. He focused on his health in matters big and small.
So imagine his bafflement when, one day at work, he suddenly began to feel particularly unwell. Even his colleague noticed it.
Gonzalez himself had to admit—the pounding in his chest couldn’t be ignored.
His new fitness watch noticed a problem, too. Gonzalez had bought the smart watch to help him monitor his vital signs. On that day, it showed alarming blood pressure numbers: 241/118.
“I didn’t think I was having a heart attack,” Gonzalez said. “But I did feel, well, out of tune.”
A short walk
Gonzalez is a director at Start Garden, a Grand Rapids, Michigan, company that helps entrepreneurs start new businesses. He always enjoyed helping others in his community, but when it came to helping himself he’d been reluctant to pick up the phone and call his doctor.
When he finally did—not in small part because a colleague nudged him into action—he learned he’d have to wait two months for the next available appointment.
But his blood pressure showed no signs of dropping.
And two months was a long time.
Then, his colleague reminded him of something.
“Hey, Jorge,” his coworker had said. “Do you remember that presentation we had here a while ago by someone from Spectrum Health? It was about that new medical clinic down the street, STR!VE.”
Gonzalez remembered. The presentation showcased a new type of medical office aimed at developing a whole-body, preventive approach to long-term wellness.
For Gonzalez, it would require just a short walk down the street, onto Ottawa Avenue in downtown Grand Rapids.
He decided to take a short stroll.
Whisked to surgery
The STR!VE office has an inviting and comfortable ambiance, unlike many medical clinics. People can visit for same-day or next-day appointments.
Gonzalez arrived and met with family nurse practitioner Melissa Wilson, MSN, BS, FNP-C, who checked his vital signs. On gauging his blood pressure, Wilson grew alarmed.
“I waited a moment, thinking it might be a false read, then took his blood pressure again,” Wilson said. “It was not going down. I put in a call to the emergency department at Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital.”
Gonzalez saw the nurse practitioner’s concern and realized he may be in trouble.
“I told her she couldn’t play poker,” he said. “She didn’t have a poker face. I could tell by looking at her that this wasn’t good.”
Gonzalez was rushed to Butterworth Hospital. Doctors and nurses at the emergency department waited for his arrival.
“They immediately did an EKG,” Gonzalez said. “A young guy read the report. I could see his face turn red.”
Things happened very quickly after that, Gonzalez said. It’s something of a blur in his memory, but he recalls a physician calling out to his staff: “All hands on board!”
Then someone shaved his chest in preparation for surgery. A second EKG confirmed Gonzalez had suffered a heart attack. His artery had become 100 percent blocked.
Doctors placed a stent in his artery to restore blood flow to his heart.
Three months later, Gonzalez feels like a new man. He is grateful for the quick actions of STR!VE medical staff and the medical team that met him at the emergency department at Butterworth Hospital.
“I wouldn’t be alive today if it wasn’t for STR!VE,” he said.
Gonzalez now repeats that walk down the street from his office to STR!VE on a weekly basis. He can take care of his follow-up appointments and meet with a dietitian to monitor his diet.
“Two years ago, I weighed 240 pounds,” he said. “Today, I weigh 182. I lost the weight because there was a day I tried to put on my shoes and couldn’t.
“I learned, though, that it’s not just about calorie reduction,” he said. “It’s what you eat. My cardiologist told me the blockage in my artery was probably because of years of a bad diet, and he recommended the Mediterranean diet. Now I eat whole foods, less processed, and a lot more fruits and vegetables.”
Wilson believes Gonzalez has recovered so quickly because he changed his sedentary habits and his diet.
STR!VE continues to help him work not just on nutrition, but his health maintenance overall.
“Many people come here for our weight management program, but we are also a full-service, primary care medical office,” Wilson said. “Some of the people who come here keep their primary care physician but come to STR!VE to treat illnesses, when they need to see a doctor same day or next day. Others use us as their primary care.”
Wilson smiles when she sees Gonzalez visit. She encourages him to keep up his appointments.
“I tell him it’s all about the follow-up,” she said. “He tells me I sound like his wife.”