Rick Stanley recovering from a heart attack

Rick Stanley and Donna Ulisse at Denton FarmPark – photo by Sandy Hatley

Sunday morning, Rick Stanley suffered a serious heart attack and was airlifted from Lebanon, TN, to Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville. Doctors successfully removed a blood clot and put in a stent. It was a scary time for all, especially his wife, Donna Ulisse, for whom Rick is a frequent co-writer as well as guitarist in her band.

We all need to listen to our bodies, yet many of us don’t. Donna shared the details of the horrific event below. 

 “I think it might help save lives. At least that is my hope,” the songwriter/singer stressed.

Here is how their Sunday morning unfolded.

“Yesterday morning started out with praise for a good night’s sleep. I had just made a strong cup of coffee when Farmer Rick came down the hall. I gave him my usual good morning greeting as he shuffled to his favorite kitchen chair, but he didn’t greet me back. Instead, he put his head in his hands and when he pulled them back I noticed his hands were shaking. He said he felt like he was going to throw up and he was pale as a ghost. 

I asked the usual questions: Do you feel feverish? Can I get you anything? He really didn’t answer me so I put my hand on his head. He was soaking, sopping wet. I mean, water was running off the top of his head. An alarm went off in my heart. I said, ‘Honey, I’m putting on my jeans and boots and taking you to the ER.’

 He said, ‘no, give me a minute.’ I said, ‘these are classic symptoms of a heart attack.’ He said that I was being silly. I put myself together anyway. He was still sitting in the same place looking pale and shaking. I begged him to get dressed and then told him he had two choices: I could call the ambulance or he could get in our truck. He got dressed. 

We raced to the ER. They let him come right through with his symptoms and I was there, too. They immediately hooked him up to an EKG machine and then things went crazy. My precious farm darling had a heart attack there in our little hospital. They called the life flight helicopter and flew him to Vanderbilt in downtown Nashville where they saved his life. Bless The Reebee’s heart for racing and I mean RACING me to the hospital which is about 45 away from our town. We almost beat the helicopter!

 Our daughters, their husbands, The Reebee, Jimmy, Jerry and Erin Salley, and sweet Chris Latham were surrounding me as we waited for news. It was torture. When they finally let me see him, after hours of waiting, he looked Divine…the most beautiful sight I’ve ever seen. He smiled at me and comforted me. 

Now my hands are shaking as I type this because it’s just as scary reliving this with you this minute as it was yesterday morning. I almost lost the love of my life. Farmer Rick had a blood clot that totally stopped the blood flow to the left side of his heart. They removed the clot and put in a stent and saved my man. 

I had been kidding all with all the ‘Rickmas’ celebrations on Facebook, but looking back on this whole time, he was just a little under the radar. He enjoyed everything, but we didn’t stay out late those nights. The pictures made the celebrations look a lot heftier than they were and the next day he would kind of lay around. In all actuality, this past Wednesday morning, he had what he thought was bad indigestion. He told me it hurt, but he took two Tums and it was better. I can’t quit going over all the signs we overlooked. We learned a HUGE lesson…listen to your body and when in doubt, go check it out!

We will be enjoying the Vanderbilt hospitality today and most likely tomorrow, too. I’m a very blessed goat girl today to be able to tell you that he is good and safe and ready to take on another day. God is great indeed! With that being said, have yourself a day filled with thanksgiving and tell those you love how much they mean to you, okay?”

Donna concluded, “He is my miracle boy.”

Our thoughts and prayers are with Rick and Donna, and remember readers, listen to your body!

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About the Author

Sandy Hatley

Sandy Chrisco Hatley is a free lance writer for several NC newspapers and Bluegrass Unlimited magazine. As a teenager, she picked banjo with an all girl band called the Happy Hollow String Band. Today, she plays dobro with her husband's band, the Hatley Family.