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Denver Health Success Stories

From patients and professional staff to a new pet therapy program handler, those closest to Denver Health share details from their experiences with our hospital.

Actor Michael Gold Suffers a Heart Attack during Rehearsal

Michael E. Gold photoThe story of how Michael Gold became the star of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” at the Buell Theatre in Denver is one of magic and Christmas miracles.

The past year has been a year of change for Michael. When he lost his 10-year-old golden retriever, Sadie, this summer he made a promise to her that he would get into the best shape of his life. And, with diet and exercise, the actor/artist lost 18 pounds by walking on a treadmill for 40 minutes every morning, taking evening walks and eating a nutritious diet.

“As an actor and dancer, I have always taken care of myself because you never know what role might come along,” explains Michael. “But I knew I could do better and at 57-years-old, I was truly in the best shape of my life.”

He also decided to reduce the stress in his life and in early fall left the visual arts job he had with a corporate company. He wanted to get back to acting and creative arts, and the corporate pressure was creating lots of stress and keeping him from what he loved.

“Shortly after I left that job, the auditions for ‘White Christmas’ opened,” says Michael. “On Halloween, I was at the first rehearsal as the understudy for Bob, the Bing Crosby character.” Michael was doing everything he loved, singing, dancing, acting, and reconnecting with friends at the Denver Center.

While at rehearsal about a month later, Nov. 30, Michael started sweating much more than normal while rehearsing one of the numbers. “I was feeling funny and knew something wasn’t right, so I asked if I could sit down for a few minutes,” says Michael. “I started to feel better, but as soon as I began moving again, it was worse. I called my life partner, Christine Miller, who is a nurse. She said she’d come get me and take me to the hospital, but when traffic slowed her down, she told me to call 911.”

When paramedics arrived at the theatre and checked Michael’s heart rhythm, it was clear Michael was having a heart attack and he needed to be taken to the closest hospital immediately. They took him to Denver Health.

“I couldn’t believe this was happening since I was in such good health,” says Michael. “It was upsetting and scary, but everyone took great care of me. Dr. Joel Garcia was in the cath lab, and he was wonderful. He talked to me through the whole procedure.”

Michael suffered what many call the “widow maker.” A blocked artery prevents blood from getting to the heart and often results in death. Due to Michael’s otherwise good health and getting to the cath lab right away so the blockage could be removed, he has had a quick and full recovery.

“The care given to me and my loved ones while I was at Denver Health was amazing,” explains Michael. “The cath lab staff was wonderful. An EMT, Joe Fishborne, knew Christine and found her in the lobby for me. I really appreciated that they also made a special point to comfort her. The nurses in the Medical Intensive Care Unit, Angela, Helena and Jace, were incredible with me and my loved ones, too. All my cardiac care was coordinated by Cardiologist Edward Havranek, MD, and his magnificent team.”

Michael also raves about Terry Wilcox, a nurse practitioner at Denver Health. She and Christine know each other, and Terry provided comfort to both Michael and Christine.

“Terry was there for us when we needed her. She was the nurse educator for me, and she did an unbelievable job,” says Michael. “She even called me at home the following weekend to see how I was doing. She herself was sick, but was thinking about me. That meant a lot to us.”

Michael arrived at Denver Health on a Friday and the following Monday he went home. On Wednesday he and Christine went for a half-hour walk. He also received a call from the “White Christmas” stage manager asking Michael if he’d watch the Wednesday evening show, explaining they might need his help over the weekend.

“I knew the lead actor was struggling with his voice, and while Christine and I sat watching the show that Wednesday, it was clear he was really working hard during the first act. I was concerned when he didn’t come out to sing the last number before intermission,” says Michael.

It was then he received a text from the stage manager asking him to meet backstage at intermission.

“I said yes as soon as I saw him,” laughs Michael. “He really wanted to find out how I was feeling only five days after a heart attack. But with the lead character struggling with his voice, we both agreed that I could go on for the second act.”

A quick make-up job and an announcement over the PA system that Michael would be the lead for the second act and Michael was up singing Christmas songs.

“The next morning I went to my primary care physician to get clearance for what I had done,” jokes Michael. “My physician cleared me for performing, and I did six more complete shows that week before the lead was ready to return.

“I am so grateful to everyone who helped me. And, this whole social media thing is amazing. I had friends from college reaching out to see how I was doing. There is a reason for me to be here. I’m very much an artist personality and can get emotional. I tell friends that I’ve always been a Hallmark card, but now I’m a box of Hallmark cards.”