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Glendale resident becomes a 'King of Hearts'

Rudy Donofrio earns recognition at hospital's annual event.

February 20, 2014|By Kelly Corrigan, kelly.corrigan@latimes.com
  • Rudy Donofrio, 66 of Glendale, right, got a chance to meet hospital employees and locals who helped saved his life about 6 months ago when he was having a heart attack in front of the hospital -- Howard Ferguson, left, and Michelle Carmichael, right -- during the Kings and Queens of Heart celebration at Glendale Memorial Hospital in Glendale on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014.
Rudy Donofrio, 66 of Glendale, right, got a chance to meet… (Raul Roa / Staff…)

Rudy Donofrio didn’t feel any pain in his chest the day he collapsed, lost his pulse and nearly died from a heart attack outside Glendale Memorial Hospital and Heart Center.

What he felt was a nagging ache in his neck that worried him enough that he called his physician one day last August.

“I just called up and said, ‘Hey, I gotta see you. I have a pain in my neck,’” Donofrio said.

Shortly after parking his car on Brand Boulevard, Donofrio, 66, was walking to the hospital’s entrance on Laurel Street when he collapsed.

PHOTOS: Heart attack survivor meets his life savers at Glendale Memorial Hospital

At around the same time, Housni Hariri, Glendale Memorial’s director of radiology, was walking toward the hospital’s entrance when a nearby nurse alerted him that Donofrio had gone limp and fell to the ground.

“She said, ‘Help! I think he’s dead,” Hariri recalled. He looked at Donofrio’s purple face, his tongue sticking out of his mouth, and thought the same.

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“There wasn’t breathing,” he said. “There was no pulse.”

Hariri immediately performed CPR on Donofrio before paramedics arrived on the scene to continue resuscitation efforts before rushing him into the emergency room.

There, emergency room technician Howard Ferguson recalls shocking Donofrio’s heart more than once with defibrillators that eventually helped pull him back to life.

Of the three days Donofrio spent in the hospital, he can’t remember a thing.

Now with a stent in a right-side artery to improve blood flow to his heart — and a grateful wife, son and daughter — Donofrio has grown used to scrutinizing food labels for their sodium and fat content, and making exercise a regular habit.

Although he was an avid walker before his heart attack, he credits a rehabilitation and exercise program he’s embraced at Glendale Memorial’s cardiac fitness center for helping him lose 26 pounds in the last several months as well as adopt a low-sodium diet.

“Nobody really told me about sodium,” he said. “You have to watch sodium. They always say, ‘cholesterol, cholesterol, cholesterol.’”

While at home in the Adams Hill neighborhood of Glendale, Donofrio walks the nearby sidewalks up to 12 times a week and sticks to a diet of chicken, fish, vegetables and salad.

“A lot of vegetables; a lot of salad,” Donofrio said.

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