TAMPA (WFLA) – For decades he has been a Tampa Bay expert when it comes to plants. Affectionately known as Mr. Greenthumb, Stan DeFreitas has appeared on local television and radio shows hundreds of times.

The role he was not prepared for was patient. He learned earlier this year that he would need a new heart.

“I couldn’t get my shoes on. My legs had blown up. I had all the classic signs of heart failure,” said DeFreitas.

A life-long athlete, DeFreitas found it hard to believe his heart was failing him.

“Well, you start thinking you’re going to die. My wife started to cry. She thought of our 45 years together and that I was a goner.”

Stan DeFreitas

Doctors believe at some point DeFreitas had a silent heart attack that badly damaged part of his heart. He was so weak, he needed to be admitted to Tampa General Hospital while waiting for a heart to become available.

It took two months but then DeFreitas received a new heart. His message now, to others, is listen to your body.

“I had a cough and I kept thinking it’s just a cough. If you’ve got swelling, edema in your feet, if you’ve got things you’ve never had before, go see your cardiologist. Go get some tests run.”