Just three months ago, a heart condition had Eddie Gilbert wondering if he’d make it to see the end of the year. But now, after doctors at Brigham and Women’s Hospital were able to perform a risky surgery he’s calling a miracle, Gilbert is healthy again, and thanking the hospital staff with a sign in the window of his Arlington business.
“They literally saved my life,” Gilbert, 64, who owns the power service repair shop Minuteman Repair, told Boston.com. “And I am doing very, very well. In fact, I feel better now than I did 20 years ago.”
In April, Gilbert was having lunch close to his home in South Dartmouth when he suffered a heart attack. He was rushed to a local hospital, where he was stabilized, and then sent to another nearby to see cardiovascular specialists, he said.
But there, doctors told him there was little they could do to treat him, according to Gilbert.
“It’s like running into a wall at 70 mph when you run up against something like this,” Gilbert said. “It was there that I was told I was beyond help — beyond hope. One surgeon told me I should’ve been there 10 years earlier and that there was nothing that he could do for me.”
Gilbert then left the hospital along with his wife Beth and a bleak prognosis: just six months to live. But the Gilberts, who have been married and working alongside each other at their repair shop for more than 40 years, weren’t ready to accept that. That’s when a friend referred them to the team of cardiovascular surgeons at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Just a few days later, the Gilberts were sitting in an exam room at the hospital, asking one of the surgeons if there was anything at all he might be able to try.
“He laughed,” Gilbert said. “He literally laughed, and said, ‘Of course there is. I’m not going to just extend your life, I’m going to fix you. I’m going to make you well.'”
Gilbert underwent numerous tests over the next few weeks with various members of the Brigham and Women’s team. In June, he went into surgery to have a valve repair, three coronary bypasses, and a risky, new operation that involved opening a blocked artery running parallel to his aorta that was more than 65 percent blocked, he said.
Minuteman Repair is currently closed for the summer, as the Gilberts are the only two employees. Gilbert said he hopes to return to the shop within the next four or five weeks, working alongside his wife and doing what he loves.
“The two of us are a team,” he said. “If you see one of us, you’ll see the other. We work together seven days a week. We’re actually best friends. I’m her right hand, she’s my left hand.”
But until the Gilberts can return, the sign, which they had printed at a shop across the street, will remain in the window, thanking the hospital staff.
“We don’t give our praise very easily. We’re kind of a team, and also kind of picky,” he said. “And that’s much like they do here in this hospital. We were highly impressed. They are just the nicest people, every last one of them.”