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Local heart patient tells his story after James Gandolfini's death

Greg Boyce Greg Boyce

James Gandolfini's death may add urgency to the need for checkups for people in their 50's and younger.

"People were shocked to hear Greg Boyce had a heart attack," said a 52-year-old man lying in a hospital bed at Ochsner Kenner. He had triple bypass surgery last month.

"I've always been an avid weight lifter, I did cardio a minimum of three days a week," Boyce said. "I had a false sense of invincibility because my exterior projected a youthful, virile strong and other adjectives I'll throw in."

Boyce is one year older than James Gandolfini, a tough guy on TV who suddenly died of a heart attack.

Ochsner Kenner cardiologist Zola N'Dandu told us, "That's not surprising because heart disease starts happening at an early age.

Dr. N'Dandu says Boyce is a diabetes patient, which brings on the effects of heart disease more quickly. "Hypertension, tobacco use, family history are all risk factors," the doctor said.

Boyce was on vacation with his wife at a friend's camp in Biloxi in May when he began feeling strange. "I threw up twice, I was sweating and I noticed when I spoke my voice became more garbled, as though I was held under water," Boyce said.

He was rushed to a Mississippi hospital when his breathing became labored. Doctors found he had three blocked arteries.

"He was basically dying and he was lucky enough, he made it to the hospital in time enough and went for open heart surgery, which was lifesaving in this case," said Dr. N'Dandu.

Warning signs that you could be in trouble include left arm discomfort, nausea or light headedness.  A patient may also vomit, according to doctors.

In the Galdolfini case, the famous actor died while on vacation in Italy. Dr. Claudio Modini, head of the emergency room at the Policlinic Umberto I hospital in Rome, said Gandolfini suffered a cardiac arrest and was pronounced dead at 11 p.m. Wednesday after resuscitation efforts in the ambulance and hospital failed. 

Modini told The Associated Press that an autopsy would be performed starting 24 hours after the death, as required by law.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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