Vin Godleski was playing ice hockey with his friends just like he had regularly for the last 70-plus years.
“I was finishing my shift on the ice and came back to the bench not feeling so well,” says the 79-year-old. “The next thing I know I’m on my back with a stunned group of guys standing around me.”
After being rushed to the Sameth Emergency Department, he was transferred to Gagnon Cardiovascular Institute for further evaluation.
“The care was superb,” recalls the Califon resident who, together with his wife, Bobbi, have been regular donors to Morristown and, fortunately, irregular patients.
Ray Catania, MD, a cardiologist at Gagnon, had told Mr. Godleski about the stenosis or narrowing of his aortic valve. They planned to replace the valve someday; the incident on the ice helped him decide that now was the time.
Mr. Godleski underwent valve replacement and bypass surgery. Under the care of John Brown III, MD, the Dr. Grant V.S. Parr Chair in Cardiovascular Surgery, the procedure went smoothly, and he found himself in recovery hugging a heart-shaped pillow.
“The pillow was a nice touch,” he says. “Every time I had to cough or clear my throat I would hug the pillow, and it would help alleviate the pain.”
Mr. Godleski began a 13-week exercise program at the Chambers Center for Well Being   weight lifting and riding the stationary bike, three times a week.
He then began regular training on the ice and in eight months was back playing his favorite sport.
“I had a goal for myself,” says Mr. Godleski. “If I was going to go through all of this rehab I wanted to get back in shape so that I could play a respectable hockey game.”