Heart Problems Don’t Stop 75-Year-Old from Full Life

Dennis Floyd has had a rich and rewarding life, filled with family, a 20-year stint in the Marines and taking care of his five-acre farm in Lake County.

So when his heart troubles started more than a decade ago, giving up wasn’t an option.

“My dad used to always say, ‘You put a patch wherever you need a patch and keep going,’ ” says Floyd, 75, who grew up with 14 siblings in St. Marys, Ga.

Floyd was back in Georgia, working on some property, when he first started having chest pain. Figuring it was indigestion, he took over-the-counter medicine. It didn’t work.

He called his wife, Alice, who urged him to come home. He was quickly taken to Orlando Health Orlando Regional Medical Center, where he had a flurry of tests and then surgery to have a pacemaker inserted in his chest.

That was when he first met Dr. Aurelio Duran, a cardiac electrophysiologist at the Orlando Health Heart and Vascular Institute. An irregular heartbeat would be just the beginning of a decade-long relationship between Floyd and the doctor he would come to trust with his life.  “That’s my guy,” Floyd says.

“I have been seeing Dr. Duran at Orlando Health for 11 years now,” he adds.  “He has become a friend and family. We don't do anything medically without his office or him saying ‘OK.’ I mean, that's just bottom line. I have that much trust in him.”

Heart disease isn’t something that’s simply cured once and for all, Dr. Duran explains.

“Whenever a doctor sees you, it's a snapshot in time, but life is a movie,” says Dr. Duran. “And just because someone's doing a certain way one scene in the movie, they might be in a different situation later.”

That’s what happened with Floyd, who developed more heart problems as time went on.

“I was huffing and puffing, huffing and puffing to the front door,” Floyd says. “There are numerous things that I couldn't do. I couldn't go outside and walk around the trees. At one time, I had to use a walker just to stay up and make a few steps.”

This is not just a gentleman who's sitting on a couch watching television. This is a guy going out there and taking care of five acres.

- Dr. Aurelio Duran, cardiac electrophysiologist at the Orlando Health Heart and Vascular Institute

Facing life-threatening issues with his heart rhythms, a defibrillator was surgically implanted into Floyd’s chest. When his heart slipped into a bad rhythm, it immediately shocked the heart back to normal. Floyd’s defibrillator would end up saving his life multiple times.

Over the years, Floyd has benefited from many types of medications and technologies. Many didn’t even exist when he was first diagnosed, like the artificial heart pump he now wears that helps his heart keep up with the demands of his life.

“It's a constant assessment of the patient, where they are in that movie, and also what tools are available,” Dr. Duran says. “Not only does the patient change, but also the tools available to take care of his problem changes over time.”

Floyd’s team includes multiple specialists at the Orlando Health Heart and Vascular Institute. “Mr. Floyd has been a recipient of all those types of expertise. The complexity of these patients really requires you have different specialists,” Dr. Duran says. “It's like having subcontractors come in and assess different problems in the structure of the heart and be able to give them customized treatments that they need."

In return, Floyd often brings the latest produce he picked from his farm to hand out at his quarterly checkups.

“This is not just a gentleman who's sitting on a couch watching television,” Dr. Duran says. “This is a guy going out there and taking care of five acres. This is tough stuff, and he does it with great joy and great vigor.”

One Big, Happy Family

Floyd’s family also plays a role in his care. “I came from a big family,” Floyd says. “So family is very important to me. Everybody knows what's going on with me.”

Floyd has been married to his wife, Alice, for 47 years. He knew within a few weeks of dating Alice that he was going to marry her. “This was going to be the woman who has my kids,” he says. “She is a great wife, great caretaker, great Gammy. I don’t know how she does it.”

Running the farm is a family affair and in addition to helping their grandad water the plants and pick the weeds, Floyd’s four children and six grandkids always ensure he isn’t pushing himself too far.

“When you can get out there in the morning, even with my health issues, I can get out there in the morning, ride the golf cart around, check the trees and that, see how they're doing, see what needs to be done. And I mean, it's just a good feeling to see where I came from to where I am now,” Floyd says as he looks out over this farm.

“I have plans on being here for a long time.”


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