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The future terrified Nancy until a doctor gave her life-changing advice

Nancy Pardo and her husband Tom.
Nancy Pardo
Nancy Pardo and her husband Tom.

This story is part of the My Unsung Hero series, from the Hidden Brain team, about people whose kindness left a lasting impression on someone else.

In 2015, Nancy Pardo and her husband, Tom, spent a few days hiking in a national park in Maine. One morning, as they were walking on a footpath, Tom fainted. Later that day, he fainted again.

They went straight to the local hospital, where doctors ran multiple tests but could not figure out why Tom had passed out. So Tom and Nancy were sent on their way.

They left the hospital and started walking, looking for a place to have lunch. When they stopped outside a restaurant to look at a menu, Tom fainted again. And this time, it was much worse.

"He went down harder and stayed out longer," Nancy recalled.

Strangers appeared and called 911, and Nancy and Tom went back to the same hospital, where they stayed for several days. From there they were transferred to the largest hospital in the area, Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center so that Tom could get a more complicated procedure – a heart catheterization. It would allow his doctors to determine if Tom had any blockages, which might explain the fainting spells.

But just as before, the medical team could not find any obvious problems. For Tom and Nancy, the uncertainty was terrifying.

"I was very afraid," Nancy said. "And the next morning, when the doctor came to release us, I asked him, 'What do we do now?'"

She assumed he would suggest another test or another specialist. But he didn't say anything like that.

"Dr. Isidore Okere, who I will remember my whole life, said to us, 'Go live your life,'" Nancy recalled. "It wasn't in a flippant way. It was his advice to us."

And that is what they have done. Despite two bouts of cancer since 2008, Tom is doing well and walks more than five miles a day. And Dr. Isidore Okere continues to work at the Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center, in Bangor, Maine, where he is a cardiologist.

"Now we are...taking Dr. Okere's advice as often as we can, trying not to be afraid," Nancy said. "And to go live our lives."

My Unsung Hero is also a podcast — new episodes are released every Tuesday. To share the story of your unsung hero with the Hidden Brain team, record a voice memo on your phone and send it to myunsunghero@hiddenbrain.org.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Laura Kwerel
[Copyright 2024 NPR]