My HCM Part Four: Recovery & A.T. Hike Featured on WKYC TV-3

Blog Date
Stuart O. Smith, Jr.

December 12, 2023, TV-3 Heartstrings Broadcast about me: Northeast Ohio man hikes portion of Appalachian Trail months after open-heart surgery
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On June 11, 2023, I ended my third Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy blog post questioning whether I would have a fourth "recovery" blog post:

Fourth HCM Blog Post??

As I was writing the outline for these three HCM blog posts, I also envisioned a potential fourth blog post entitled: My Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Part Four: Recovery, which would be about normal life after I am fully recovered from my early 2023 symptoms. At this point, I doubt I will write a fourth blog post, but know that all future blog posts about my having a normal life will be made possible due to the diagnosis and treatment I received from the doctors and nurses of University Hospitals.

Well, my idea of writing an HCM (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy) recovery blog post changed from a doubt to a must-do when my cardiologist, Eiran Gorodeski MD, MPH, recommended I share my story with others on television. He had University Hospitals Senior Media Relations Strategist Carly Belsterling contact me on October 16, 2023. After an initial interview with her, I met with TV-3 News Special Projects Reporter Lindsay Buckingham on December 5, 2023, at a special location. Dr. Gorodeski was also interviewed for the news story, and he shared how I have a specific type of heart failure called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy that affects about 750,000 Americans.

If you want to learn more about HCM, please see my first three blog posts about my illness and treatment. They cover . . .

In my HCM first blog post, you can read that: "Thanks to Nurse Practitioner Sari Stone, I had the appropriate tests done that led to the correct diagnosis." To recognize the one-year anniversary of her ordering for me a "STAT" echocardiogram, I sent Ms. Stone a thank-you message and let her know about the WKYC interview. I also met with Dr. Gorodeski on Friday, December 15, 2023, for a follow-up appointment, which gave me an opportunity to thank him. It is strange to think I met Dr. Gorodeski for the first time one year ago, on Tuesday, December 13, 2022 -- that first appointment led me down the path to where I am today -- enjoying my current recovery.

In this recovery blog post, I will share an update on the great progress I have made, information about the significance of the interview's location, and then the actual interview that was broadcast, along with its companion article.



Resource: Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Board Information

From: Donato, Diane M
Date: December 21, 2023 at 5:29:26 PM EST
To: Stuart Smith, Belsterling, Carly Flynn

Hi Stuart,

Again, thank you for sharing your story. Other HCM patients need a patient advocate in their corner to help alleviate potential fears/concerns. . . . Our goal is to get patients into our HCM Center (216) 286-4HCM (4426) where we can schedule them with one of our core HCM team that has been trained in managing the HCM patient… Patients with HCM as you know are quite complex which is why we have a team of specialty cardiologists that sit on our board for shared decision making as far as a treatment plan goes for each individualized patient. Let me know if you would like a list of our core HCM team. . . . Your story is nothing less than remarkable!



On December 21 & 22, 2023, while finishing this HCM recovery blog post, I received emails from University Hospital HCM Nurse Navigator Diane Donato RN, BSN -BC with a link to an article about their Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Board and a list of University Hospitals providers who are the core members of the HCM Board. The University Hospitals HCM Center can be reached by phone at: 216-286-4HCM (4426). I decided that, before telling you my backstory and about my interview for WKCY TV-3, I would share these resources here in case you know someone who could use this information:

Core members of the HCM (Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy) Board
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I recommend you read:

I had actually already included the article in my first HCM blog post, and wrote that I had met with all the cardiac doctors mentioned in the article. I experienced the University Hospitals team approach of HCM care outlined in the article.




From: Belsterling, Carly Flynn
Subject: RE: Success!!
Date: October 16, 2023 at 1:59:42 PM EDT
To: Stuart O. Smith, Jr.

Hello Stuart,

My name is Carly and I work in media relations at UH, promoting the good work done at UH Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute. One of the ways I do that is by working with patients who’ve had a positive experience and placing their stories in local media.

Dr. Gorodeski told me a little about you and suggested I reach out to you.

I’m so glad he tells me you’re doing well!

Would you at all be open to potentially telling your story publicly, through an interview with a local media outlet? No pressure at all. This is only if you’re comfortable.

If so, could we arrange a phone call so I can learn a little more about you?

Please let me know and thanks in advance!

Carly Belsterling
Senior Media Relations Strategist
University Hospitals
Cleveland, Ohio

I have been backpacking on the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) since I was 13 years old. I also thru-hiked the entire A.T. when I completed college. Then, on April 7, 2013, I started backpacking sections of the A.T., starting at the southern terminus on top of Springer Mountain, Georgia. As of a year ago, I had completed ten of the states and the first half of the state of Massachusetts. (Yes, that means this year, when I should have been celebrating 10 years of section-hiking the A.T. on April 7, 2023, I was instead so ill that I was breathless just walking a short distance to the car for my wife to drive me to my doctor appointments.) I also have backpacked the desert sections, starting at the Mexico border, of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in 2019, and the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) in 2022. It was quite a shock to go from being able to hike 22 days on the Continental Divide Trail in April 2022, to not being able to walk up two steps without being completely winded in April 2023. At one point, Dr. Gorodeski happened to see me barely able to walk while leaving an appointment with another doctor at the University Hospitals Minoff Health Center, and based on how I looked, he asked if I wanted to be admitted to a hospital -- I was in a bad state.

Here are the three photos that I sent to Lindsay Buckingham for her story about me.
The photos show me at the southern terminus of the A.T., PCT, and CDT:

Southern Terminus: April 7, 2013, Appalachian Trail, Springer Mountain, Georgia (started section hiking 10 years ago); May 2, 2019, Pacific Crest Trail, California/Mexico border; April 7, 2022, Continental Divide Trail, New Mexico/Mexico border
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When I met with with Dr. Gorodeski for the first time, I let him know that whatever treatment I received for my newly diagnosed severe LVOT (left ventricular outflow tract) obstruction would need to allow me to continue being the active person that I have always been. I am glad to write that that is exactly what happened!!! I feel today like I never had an obstruction, and except for the large scar on my chest, which can be an annoyance, I don't have any issues related to my open-heart surgery.

My first three HCM blog posts presented my treatment milestones, so now I want to list some of the activities that I did starting two months after my surgery. I consider them my key recovery milestones that show that I am back to being healthy again:


After returning from my Appalachian Trail backpacking trip, I wrote what I call my "success" letter to my cardiac surgeon, Dr. Yasir Abu-Omar, and my cardiologist, Eiran Gorodeski MD, MPH. I had drafted this letter in my head while I will still in the hospital last April, and I was so glad to be able to send it, since it confirmed that I was healthy again to live my life fully!!

Subject: Success!!
. . .
When I first met with Dr. Gorodeski, I indicated my definition of a successful treatment outcome for me would be returning to what is my normal active lifestyle. I can now say that the surgery was a grand success.
. . .
. . . On the [Appalachian Trail] trip, I found that my stamina and strength felt completely back to my normal level . . .

See the following image for Dr. Gorodeski's October 16, 2023, 9:55 am, reaction to my email -- "Wow..! That is amazing" -- which led me to receive an email (see top of this section) the very same day from University Hospitals Senior Media Relations Strategist Carly Belsterling. This led to me being interviewed by TV-3 News Special Projects Reporter Lindsay Buckingham.

I report that my stamina and strength felt completely back to my normal level while backpacking. Dr. Gorodeski's reply: Wow..! That is amazing.
Be sure to enlarge this image to read my "success" letter!



Tuesday, December 5, 2023 - The Interview on the Buckeye Trail

December 5, 2023, I enjoyed meeting with Special Projects Visual Storyteller Ty Choate and TV 3 News Special Projects Reporter Lindsay Buckingham, and learning how they produce the Heartstrings segment for the WKYC News
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From: Stuart O. Smith, Jr.
Sent: Wednesday, November 29, 2023 10:13 PM
To: Belsterling, Carly Flynn
Subject: Last day of Cardiac Rehab | WKYC Interview


FYI, today was my last day of my "Phase Two: Cardiac Rehabilitation" program at the University Hospitals Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute.

. . . being my last day and also mentioned meeting “. . . next week with WKYC Channel 3 - Cleveland special projects reporter, Lindsay Buckingham, to share my story about my April 27, 2023, open-heart surgery and recovery." . . .

. . .

I was thinking about meeting in the Lake Metroparks, either at Chapin Forest or Penitentiary Glen Reservation, since they are on the Buckeye Trail and they both have shelters if the weather is bad. . . . I hiked at both of these parks on the Buckeye Trail after my April 27, 2023, surgery on July 20, 2023 . . .

Stuart O. Smith, Jr., MNO
Blogging at:

I learned from Carly Belsterling that Dr. Gorodeski would be interviewed by Lindsay Buckingham the day before my interview. I was really curious about what he would say about my HCM case, and how his statements would fit with what I shared.

It was important to me that the place I was interviewed be part of the story. I wanted it to take place at one of the locations on the Buckeye Trail where I walked after my surgery to begin regaining my stamina and strength. Lindsay Buckingham liked my recommendation of the Lake Metroparks Penitentiary Glen Reservation. I suggested using the park's Rabbit Run Shelter if the weather was bad. I also arranged for Julie, my wife and co-blogger, to attend so that she would be able to get photos and videos of me interviewed.

I recommend viewing videos in full screen mode.

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December 5, 2023 - Lindsay Buckingham interviewed me at Rabbit Run Shelter in Lake Metroparks Penitentiary Glen Reservation.
  December 5, 2023 - Lindsay Buckingham interviewed me at Rabbit Run Shelter in Lake Metroparks Penitentiary Glen Reservation.   December 5, 2023 - Lindsay Buckingham interviewed me at Rabbit Run Shelter in Lake Metroparks Penitentiary Glen Reservation.

I also made point of wearing to the interview my new "Hike in Harmony" shirt that I had just purchased at the Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association (ALDHA) 41st Annual Gathering after backpacking on the Appalachian Trail in Massachusetts. Hike In Harmony is a program of the ALDHA that I want more people to know about. Its mission is to encourage respect of fellow hikers, trail towns, and the trail itself --

On Tuesday, December 5, 2023, it was great to finally meet Lindsay Buckingham in person and learn about her WKYC TV-3 "Heartstrings" series -- ". . . specializing in uplifting, inspiring and hopeful stories." She was joined by Special Projects Visual Storyteller Ty Choate, who captured the interview on camera, and worked with Lindsay to edit it for broadcast on WKYC Channel 3. I enjoyed learning about how they worked together to produce inspirational stories for television.

37°F and drizzle with chance of flurries - luckily we all dressed for the weather, and for me it felt great to be outside in this park that I have hiked on the Buckeye Trail before. Specifically, it reminded me of a winter hike I did here on Monday, February 4, 2019. Here are two blog posts that I wrote about hiking the Buckeye Trail section that goes through the Lake Metroparks Penitentiary Glen Reservation:

After a sit-down interview, Lindsay joined me in walking on the trail as we talked about my experiences on trails around the country. Next, Ty filmed Julie and me talking as we walked along the Buckeye Trail.

Lindsay then surprised us by asking to interview Julie for the story, and after the interview, she asked for a photo of us with our sons. As we walked, I had mentioned that I had taken my sons backpacking on the Appalachian Trail when they were age 13. She expanded the story to include our whole family's enjoyment of local hiking trails.

December 5, 2023 - Lindsay Buckingham interviewed Julie at Lake Metroparks Penitentiary Glen Reservation.
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Tuesday, December 12, 2023 - Heartstrings Broadcast:
Northeast Ohio man hikes portion of Appalachian Trail months after open-heart surgery
One year ago, Stuart Smith's plans to hike a section of the Appalachian Trail came to a screeching halt. Then heart surgery kept him on his path.

December 12, 2023, Julie and I walked on the Buckeye Trail for the TV-3 Heartstrings Broadcast: Northeast Ohio man hikes portion of Appalachian Trail months after open-heart surgery
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"I couldn't walk up two steps without being completely winded," Stuart said.

It was enough to send Stuart to University Hospitals Harrington Heart and Vascular Institute.

"Stuart has a very specific type of heart failure. He has a condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy," Dr. Eiran Gorodeski, heart failure cardiologist at UH, said.
. . .
In April of 2023, Stuart underwent open heart surgery.
. . .
"A lot of his symptoms disappeared. And the trophy on the top was that he was able to go back to hiking, which honestly, I wasn't sure that he was ever gonna be able to do," Dr. Gorodeski said.

Just six months after his surgery, Stuart continued on a planned hike: A 7-day, 54-mile backpacking trip of the Appalachian Trail in Massachusetts.

"My endurance was completely back to how I was like, I never experienced the surgery or a heart condition," Stuart said.

Lindsay is a great storyteller! Julie and I loved how she and Ty edited the interview for broadcast. It was great how the story showed a map of the Appalachian Trail and photos of me on the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and Continental Divide Trail. Thank you to WKYC TV-3 for also sharing my "Heartstrings" story on YouTube:

It was wild to see myself on Lindsay Buckingham’s “Heartstrings” report on WKYC Channel 3. It was broadcast at 11:13 pm during the late news on Tuesday, December 12, 2023.

It was interesting to learn from his part of the interview that my cardiologist, Dr. Eiran Gorodeski, was not sure I would be able to backpack again. I plan to do even more backpacking in 2024.

Please be sure to read the full story that Lindsay Buckingham published as an article on the WKYC website, since it provides even more information:

In particular, I am grateful that Lindsay included links to the ATC and ALDHA websites in the following text in the article -- I want people to have the links to both of these organizations, since they provide great resources for backpackers:

Stuart is a proud life member of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and the Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association (ALDHA), along with several other trail organizations.

On December 17, 2023, the story was shared on a private Buckeye Trail Association Facebook group. It was great to know of interest in the story from supporters of the Buckeye Trail. From a member of this group, I learned that the story was broadcast on television at least three times.

Did you notice the bear in the background of the video of me being interviewed at the shelter? I didn't!!! I just think it is funny that there is a bear in the video! Shout-out to Shana Mysko for having a good eye and letting me know. See my reply in the following image which explains the source of the bear:

December, 13, 2023, Shana Mysko asked: ... what is the animal in the background of this photo and why does it look like a bear?
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Related Blog Posts

I hope you enjoyed the video that Lindsay and Ty Choate produced, and took time to read the the full article on the WKYC website. I always like to end my blog posts with a list of related blog posts. I hope you explore some of the following that may interest you:

Learn about my experience with HCM in my three Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy blog posts:


The northern terminus of the Buckeye Trail is located near Lake Erie shoreline and then goes through the Cleveland Museum of Natural History's Mentor Marsh. Learn about the eagles of the marsh in my blog post:


In addition to the following two Penitentiary Glen blog posts, please visit my "Lake Metroparks" and "Buckeye Trail" blog tags for additional blog posts of interest.


Here are blog posts about activities and traveling I was able to do this year as an outcome of my successful April 27, 2023, open-heart surgery:


There is a high level of overlap here between these topics, but see the following blog tags: "hike," "trails," and "ALDHA" (Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association)


As I end the year, I am actively planning more adventures for 2024, which are possible thanks to my successful open-heart surgery at University Hospitals.