A Heartbeat Away

Man’s Aortic Dissection Brings Clarity, New Way of Life



On a seemingly normal night in 2019, Roy Reid and his wife were spending the night relaxing at home and watching movies on Netflix. His wife fell asleep, and he went to bed shortly after, only to be awoken by the worst chest pressure and pain he’d ever experienced. It was 2 in the morning, and it felt like “someone was punching a hole through my chest and just squeezing the life out of my heart,” Reid says.


“I woke up my wife and told her to take me to the ER.”


He suffered a stroke on the way to the emergency room in Altamonte Springs, where he was quickly diagnosed with an acute aortic dissection, which means his heart essentially exploded. Reid was then flown via helicopter to AdventHealth Orlando. The importance of arriving swiftly to the ER and subsequently AdventHealth Orlando is something that cannot be emphasized enough. Besides the quick arrival and knowledgeable doctors and nurses who made the diagnosis, Roy also credits the technology that was available at both facilities that enabled them to make the decisions and diagnosis that saved his life. 


Dr. Kevin Accola, executive medical director of cardiovascular surgery at AdventHealth Orlando, underscores why speedy treatment is imperative. 


“If patients are operated on in the first few hours, their chances are much better than if they are operated on in 12 or 24 hours.”


Reid, a resident of Longwood, then endured a six-hour surgery, followed by a week in a medically induced coma, one month in the hospital recovering, and six months out of work. 


“While my family felt a sense of hope and opportunity, the situation was truly dire,” he says. 


The prevailing belief was that if I did survive the surgery, I would likely need around-the-clock medical care for the rest of my life.” He did in fact survive the surgery, made a full mind and body recovery, and is so grateful for the entire cardiac team at AdventHealth Orlando that provided everything he needed along the way to recovery, from the high-tech ER tools and tech to unparalleled care and concern for his mental and physical well-being.  The cardiac rehab team also made sure he understood the lifestyle changes that were required after the physical recovery. His family provided emotional and physical support to him during this time, as well. 


“There is truly a certain kind of PSTD that comes with a life-changing trauma like this,”he says, explaining that he wouldn’t have been able to make it through without the AdventHealth team and his amazing and supportive family.


While the cardiologists do not know the cause of Reid’s aortic dissection, he did have enough risk factors working against him that combined for a perfect storm. 


Prior to the “explosion,” Reid had no symptoms that indicated his health was in danger. He had no symptoms of cardiac issues, and while he did have slightly elevated blood pressure, it was never high enough to even require prescription medication. He struggled with sleep apnea and was admittedly a bit overweight, but none of these factors interfered with his daily life or were even a concern to him or any of his doctors at the time. 


Now, three years after the incident, surgery, and recovery, Roy has made big changes in his life —both mentally and physically. 

“Roy Reid is an inspiration for everyone,” says Accola. “Anyone who is overcoming medical circumstances, the way he has approached this, I think is a lesson well-learned.”

These days, Reid participates in 5k runs. When he’s not participating in organized races, he does some type of cardio activity every day without fail. He’s also lost roughly 40 pounds, eats much healthier, and spends more quality time with each member of his family. He described what he calls “non-negotiables” in his day-to-day life now, spanning from diet to exercise and time management. He also takes allotted time to engage in activities such as reading, meditation, prayer, and of course, quality family time. 

Reid, his wife of 30 years, and their four children sit down for a family lunch or dinner every Sunday. The bond they share is closer now than ever before.

 “Everyone has adjusted in the wake of it,” Reid says. “We all made and continue to make conscious decisions now daily. We’re not promised any day.”

“Confronting your mortality gives insight into what matters most to you. Love people, be grateful, and give generously. Be involved in things that will help make a difference. I wouldn’t wish this medical experience on anyone, but it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

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