Affair of the Heart
But just as Carmical, 50, and Simpson, 42, were preparing for the treatment last Nov. 13 at Johns Hopkins Medical Institution in Baltimore, they found a cure for a different sort of heartache. As the first two patients to try the new procedure—in which a laser burns tiny channels in the heart, spurring the creation of new blood vessels to encourage blood flow—they met, at a nurse's suggestion, to share their fears. Neither was looking for romance. Simpson, a New Castle, Del., homemaker, hadn't dated since her husband died in 1996 of a brain tumor; Carmical, a financial consultant in Bowling Green, Ky., whose marriage broke up in the '80s, had been wary of getting involved again because, he says, "I had a lot of health problems, and I didn't want to tie anyone down." Yet they hit it off instantly. After their treatment and discharge, they spoke nightly by phone from their homes. Carmical visited Simpson once for several days, and on May 4, when both returned to Hopkins for a checkup, he presented her with a heart-shaped engagement ring.
On July 22, the couple, who both have grown daughters—and share a passion for Elvis—were wed in Memphis. "I never dreamed in a million years I would get remarried," says Simpson. "I'm sure he was heaven-sent." The patients' health has improved along with their spirits. "It's like night and day," says Carmical, who will soon move in with Simpson. On a recent visit to Manhattan, he boasts, "I walked 30 blocks." Simpson has had chest pain twice since the procedure—though that, she notes, is a vast improvement. Together, she says, "we're just beginning to live."