Felix Oroz: Striking Out Heart Disease

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As a former professional athlete and a daily exerciser, Felix Oroz didn’t think he was at risk for a heart attack — until it happened. He is now a passionate advocate for heart disease prevention. This is his story.

Reno native and former professional baseball player Felix Oroz thought he was immune to heart issues, even though it runs in his family.

“Every male on my father’s side of the family has passed away from heart disease,” says Oroz, who pitched for the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres from 1979 to 1985. “I still didn’t draw the conclusion it could happen to me. I was an athlete. I was running. I ran an hour and fifteen minutes the day that it happened.”

Two years ago, Oroz thought he was suffering heartburn after eating a rich lunch. He doubled over in pain, and his wife, France, called an ambulance.

Oroz was en route to Renown Regional Medical Center when he suffered a massive heart attack known as a “Widow Maker,” which has a 7 percent survival rate. His wife recalls the care team was ready to treat her husband as soon as they arrived, which made all the difference in his outcome.

Oroz’s Renown cardiologist, David Smith, M.D., F.A.C.C., thought it was unusual that he would have a heart attack since he was an athlete and a clear angiogram in 2009 — a procedure to determine if someone is at risk for a heart attack.

Oroz made a full recovery and now is an advocate for heart disease prevention as a board member for the American Heart Association. And he has changed his previous Spanish-Basque diet — heavy in organ meats — to consuming more fish.

“I think there is a correlation between being a former athlete and the life lessons that can be learned as a result of a heart attack,” Oroz says. “In athletics you have to be determined. You have to have team work, perseverance, dedication and confidence. And all those things can apply now to making those lifestyle changes — not only for the short term, but for the long term.” 

And he’s learned that even if you’re an athlete, you are not immune to health issues.

“You may be a phenomenal athlete, you may be a high school athlete. It doesn’t matter what caliber, but you’re human first,” Oroz says. “And how you take care of yourself — your family history, routine checkups, making sure you’re in tune with how your body is reacting — is important.”

Visit Renown.org to learn more about heart attack care. If you or someone you know is experiencing chest pain, call 911 immediately. Do not drive to the emergency room.

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