Gonzalo Rodriguez, a story of heart and inspiration

January 31, 2020

February is Heart month. For Gonzalo Rodriguez, it takes a special significance. Here is his story.

Gonzalo Rodriguez Sr. was 52 years old when he was overcome by a sudden, violent heart attack in his family home. His 18-year-old son was upstairs studying for an exam. Business school was demanding, and the younger Gonzalo was determined to do well. He would be successful and graduate from business school, but that particular exam would have to wait.

Gonzalo Rodriguez, Sr.

Alerted by his mother, Gonzalo rushed to his father. It was clear he needed to go to the hospital. But in the Colombian town of Bucaramanga at the foot of the majestic Andes where they lived, emergency services were not nearly as reliable as we know them today in most of North America. It’s better now, but in Colombia in 1999 “the process and standards for EMS were not good.” It could take 10 minutes, or 20 minutes for an ambulance to arrive, if it arrived at all.

Gonzalo did not waste time calling, choosing instead to drive his father to the hospital himself. Unfortunately, Gonzalo’s father passed away en route to the hospital. “It was a really strong heart attack. He didn’t have a chance.”

Gonzalo Rodriguez

That’s one of the reasons he started working in the health sector. “It’s really important to me as a person, as an individual, to educate people about how to prevent heart attacks. This could happen to anyone.”

His mother and brother have been very supportive, and continue to be involved in health education. Gonzalo spent a few years with the Heart and Stroke Foundation in Ottawa before moving to Accreditation Canada and Health Standards Organization as Market Development for Latin America and the Caribbean. His job includes working with governments and health organizations in Latin America to improve health standards across the region. “If we’d had better standards in Colombia 20 years ago with EMS, probably my father would be alive today.”

For more information about Heart Health Month, visit the Heart and Stroke Foundation website.