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Barbara and Jimmy Smith will be honored at the Art for Heart event Friday night.
Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.
Barbara and Jimmy Smith will be honored at the Art for Heart event Friday night.

Getting to the HEART of the matter
You hold the key to keeping heart in shape; the Smiths learn this lesson the hard way

By Patrice Stewart

Sometimes you feel some symptoms of heart problems, and sometimes you don’t. February is National Heart Month, and Jimmy and Barbara Smith, a couple who have seen both views of heart disease, will be honored tonight at Art for Heart. This art auction at Burningtree Country Club will raise funds for the American Heart Association’s research and education efforts.

Smith said he is an example of the type who sees his doctor regularly for checkups and never felt any symptoms of heart disease. He is a diabetic, too, so he and his diet were under more scrutiny than some.

The owner of Jimmy Smith Jewelers in Decatur went in for his regular physical in October 2000. He recalls that he was getting ready to go on a business trip, but one doctor led to another and he ended up in Birmingham with bypass surgery for five blockages “which I didn’t know I had.”

He passed his stress test in Decatur, he said, but a dye test showed some problems. Decatur did not have heart surgeons at that time, so they gave him a choice of Huntsville or Birmingham.

“I told Dr. (Michael) Wilensky at Princeton (Baptist Medical Center in Birmingham) that he didn’t have to explain everything he was going to do in advance — just fix me up — and he did,” said Smith.

His wife, Barbara, acknowledges having felt some irregular heartbeats of her own before then, and she had tests run and was told she would need a pacemaker.

“But they didn’t say I needed it now,” she recalled. “So when I went down with Jimmy for his surgery, I passed out and they put me in his bed. The cardiologist said I needed to go ahead and do it, so three weeks later I got a pacemaker.”

That wasn’t the end of it, however. Two years later she was walking down a street in New Orleans with a friend and began to feel short of breath and chest pains, so she stopped to rest. Tests showed five blocked arteries, and four needed bypasses, so she got that taken care of exactly two years after her husband’s surgery.

Both try to watch what they eat and get exercise. He has a walking route near their home in warmer months, while she likes to ride her exercise bicycle at home, which is easier on her bad knee.

“We have always supported Heart Association events,” said Smith, 73, and now they are beneficiaries of the type of research funded by proceeds from the annual Art for Heart and Heart Walk events.

“We all know heart disease is the No. 1 killer, so I urge others to get to the doctor for checkups, take all the tests and keep a close watch on this,” he said, “because I was walking around with all that blockage and could have dropped dead with a heart attack.”

If you go

What: Art for Heart, a fundraiser held by the Morgan County Art Guild for the American Heart Association

When: Friday, Feb. 9, with silent auction of art by area artists beginning at 7 p.m. and a live auction with Ed Nichols as auctioneer at 8 p.m.

Where: Burningtree Country Club

Admission: $50 per person at the door (no advance reservation needed), including heavy hors d’oeuvres and a ticket for a complimentary wine or beer; a disc jockey will take requests for favorite songs and the dress is casual, said Sissy Graves, co-chair with Sara Watkins.

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