The terrain disappears beneath the clouds. Snow blankets the majestic spine of a mountain range. Orange, purple, and blue fill the sky, surrendering to encroaching darkness. Suddenly, the stillness is broken. Turbulence. It’s a reminder you are 25,000 feet in the air, traveling 350 miles per hour, and a harsh realization that your once comfortable ride contains inherent fragility. Orlando Rosado knows this all too well. 

He immigrated from Cuba when he was four years old. An Air Force Academy graduate, he flew F-15 fighters before commencing a career as a FedEx pilot. On an ordinary day in 1995, after a routine workout, Orlando began to feel a numbing sensation in his fingers. Something wasn’t right. He sought care at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis (formerly Baptist East) and, at 37 years old, faced the unthinkable: a potentially career-ending heart attack. 

After undergoing quadruple bypass surgery (Dr. Rodney Wolf, Baptist Memorial), Orlando immediately began recovery with workouts and weight training under the supervision of his cardiologist, Dr. Steven Gubin. “He was my guardian angel.” Orlando exuberantly credits the team at Stern Cardiovascular and Baptist for his success. Through training, dedication, and discipline, he achieved a full and lasting recovery. He regained his pilot medical certificate within eight months. Furthermore, he completed the Pontotoc Mississippi Marathon shortly after that. 

Despite his healthy lifestyle, genetics couldn’t be stifled. In February 2018, while vacationing in Alabama, he suffered a second heart attack. After a successful stent insertion at East Alabama Medical Center, he returned to Memphis and, again, relied on Dr. Gubin and his staff for his recovery training. In the face of relentless medical challenges, Orlando completed a 30-year aviation career as a FedEx Chief Pilot and retired as a Colonel in the Tennessee Air National Guard. 

He passionately lays out the components of his success: great medical and chiropractic care, supportive family and friends, and diet and exercise. Most importantly, he credits his faith. “Maintaining spirit is the key to recovery; have faith. I’m still here because God has a plan for my life.” 

Orlando robustly lives that life he knows he almost lost. He’s turned fragility into resilience, uncertainty into drive, and finiteness into opportunity. Now, at 66, Orlando maintains a healthy lifestyle by training at CrossFit 870 in Marion, Arkansas, which his son-in-law owns and operates. He participates in the “Forever Young” fitness program twice a week and instructs four “Step To It” fitness dance classes weekly. “I go, get my workout, then stay and teach dance classes.” In addition, he bikes and plays golf. He urges, “Become as stress-free as possible. It’s a silent killer.” 

There are inevitable, unwanted moments of turbulence in life. Some are foreseeable, others blindside. Heeding Orlando’s advice, instead of spending our precious time worrying about what may come, we might as well grab a window seat and enjoy the view. 

By Amanda Tompkins 

Photo by Tindall Stephens