Gerardo Lambert was in great shape — and perfect health. A popular, certified trainer at high-end New York clubs, his sculpted physique and confident air turned heads wherever he went.
In 2005 though, he felt short of breath and light-headed during training. The diagnosis: cardiomyopathy. The disease — preventing Gerardo’s heart from pumping efficiently — was of unknown origin. But it can lead to heart failure.
Medications failed. Gerardo became depressed. He felt like giving up.
His wife, meanwhile, was pregnant with a boy. Friends, relatives and clients rallied to help Gerardo and his family. Still, he could not work.
Gerardo underwent 3 operations for pacemakers. He had a stroke, and more than 20 heart attacks. He passed out from lack of oxygen every couple of weeks. He was scared to be alone.
Gerardo tried to stay in shape. He walked a few miles a day, or did intervals of functional training. He stopped often to catch his breath. But even moderate exercise increased his stamina. For 5 years, it was all he looked forward to.
In 2009, his frail heart could not support his organ functions. Gerardo was placed in an induced coma — for 3 months. He unknowingly faced countless life-or-death situations: ventricular attacks, kidney failure, open-heart surgeries.
Miraculously, one was found. The heart of a 20-year-old Minnesota man, killed in a motorcycle accident, was implanted into Gerardo’s chest.
But enormous obstacles remained. Gerardo spent another month in the hospital re-learning how to walk, speak and eat.
The former trainer had lost over 80 pounds of muscle mass — nearly half his weight. Gerardo had to rebuild even the most common muscle groups just to walk, climb stairs, even sit in a chair.
But he worked harder than ever. Six months after receiving a new heart, Gerardo was back in the gym. Healthier than ever, he worked with clients. He inspired them with his new body, new heart, and inspirational message of the importance of taking care of yourself, and your life.
Today, you can find Gerardo at the Westport YMCA. He’s one of the most popular group fitness instructors and personal trainers. For 3 years, he’s led the Y’s vigorous Body Shock classes.
Oh, yeah: He’s also training for his 1st amateur bodybuilding competition.
The heart of another young man beats now inside Gerardo’s chest. Metaphorically too, Gerardo carries his donor in his heart.
“I can’t let him down,” Gerardo says. “This is a 2nd chance at life — for both of us.”
The Y has embraced a Healthy Lifestyles Initiatives. There are programs for people of all ages and physical abilities, cancer survivors — and cardiac rehab patients too.
Healthy hearts are especially important in February. This is American Heart Month.
And no one is happier to celebrate it than Gerardo Lambert.
Despite what the video below says, you CAN watch it. Just click “Watch on Vimeo”!
(Hat tip: Scott Smith)