Victor Nuovo back on the job after health scare

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury Selectman Victor Nuovo rarely misses board meetings. And on the rare occasions he does, it’s usually because he’s traveling abroad to research his latest book project.
However, when the 86-year-old took his place at the selectboard table on April 10 it was the first time he’d been to a meeting in almost six weeks. The reason: He’s been recovering from a major heart attack.
“It’s been an interesting episode and it’s caused me to think a lot,” Nuovo, a lifelong philosopher, said simply of his recent health crisis.
It was at around 2 a.m. on March 2 that Nuovo woke up with a stabbing pain in his chest. It was unlike anything he had felt in his 86 years, and he knew it had to be something serious. He at first wondered if it might have something to do with the persistent heartburn he had been trying to shake for the past week or two. While he has undergone some heart procedures in the past, he’d never been diagnosed with high blood pressure.
“I told (my spouse) Betty, ‘I’m not feeling well,’” Nuovo recalled of the tension-packed morning.
That’s when he passed out.
Betty quickly called 911, and a Middlebury Regional EMS team showed up in very short order. By this time, Victor Nuovo had revived and was — true to form — conversing amiably with those who had come to his rescue.
The ambulance delivered Nuovo to Porter Hospital for what would be a short visit. After stabilizing his condition, Porter officials returned him to the ambulance for a trip north to the University of Vermont Medical Center. There, physicians confirmed what Nuovo had suspected: He had experienced a major heart attack.
 “There’s a certain amount of denial,” he said.
Denial, in spite of some telltale signs that his heart was not infallible.
After all, Nuovo had had a stent inserted into one of his arteries around 20 years ago to address a blockage.
In 2014, he had undergone a heart valve procedure.
But all that past work on his heart had given him a false sense of security, Nuovo conceded.
“I thought I was home-free,” he said with a smile.
And why not?
The longtime professor had been an avid runner since his 50s, occasionally participating in marathons. He routinely ran 60 to 70 miles per week before a knee injury forced him to switch to walking. The day before his heart attack, he had been out for a three-mile walk.
Ironically, it was the same stented artery that triggered Nuovo’s March 2 heart attack. Physicians cleaned it out again and put in multiple stents in an effort to maintain the blood flow.
He’s now no longer in denial.
Nuovo is all-in on a recovery program that includes medication, changes in diet and exercise.
“A heart attack is a reminder there’s a condition that could do you in,” Nuovo said.
Doctors prescribed some blood thinners, which he’s made part of his daily regimen, though he needs reminders.
“My and Betty’s memories aren’t what they used to be,” Nuovo said with a smile. “We put little signs around the house to keep track (of when it’s time to take a pill).”
He’s begrudgingly given up pizza, eggs for breakfast and other fatty foods. No more bread slathered with butter.
“I used to love a grilled cheese sandwich with some bacon in it,” Nuovo said, beaming.
“I guess I’ve seen the last of that.”
Fortunately, Nuovo has found his restored health to be a more than fair trade-off for the sinfully delicious foods he’s left in his rearview mirror. He’s eating a lot of fish, vegetables and other heart-healthy dishes that are gradually restoring his strength and stamina.
Nuovo is a bulldog when it comes to his daily regimen of reading and research, and he wants to make sure his heart cooperates. He’s the Middlebury College Charles A. Dana Professor of Philosophy Emeritus. He’s helped generations of students to rationally debate questions about human existence, knowledge and ethics. Nuovo has penned five books about famed Philosopher John Locke, and he regularly writes essays for the Addison Independent.
Indeed, his heart attack has made him a bit more philosophical about his own existence.
 “It reminds you you’re mortal,” Nuovo said of the health scare.
With that in mind, he’s drafted an “advanced directive,” a document that clearly spells out the extent of care one wants to receive during a health crisis. An advanced directive, among other things, can let emergency responders know if a patient wants to receive CPR if their heart stops beating.
“People ought to think about these things,” Nuovo said.
But not be consumed by them.
Nuovo is glad to be re-immersing himself in municipal business. It isn’t the same watching meetings via public access television.
“It’s a great town,” he said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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