Goldson Opens Up About Heart Condition
Tue 19th December 2023
Connor Goldson has marked the partnership between the Foundation and the British Heart Foundation by talking candidly with BHF’s Katrina Tweedie about his own heart condition. Read on to see the full article produced by BHF or watch a video of the interview HERE, and find out more about Connor’s diagnosis and recovery, and why he is urging fans to learn vital CPR skills.
Connor Goldson has a tattoo across his chest with the words ‘Chase your Dreams’, which is dissected by a large scar running through the middle, marking a defining moment in his life.
Aged 24 he was diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm – a swelling of the large artery which passes through the abdomen which was at risk of bursting with potentially catastrophic consequences – and had to undergo surgery to repair it.
“I don’t see it anymore, it’s just part of me, part of my body,” he says.
“It looks nice. I like it because it shows what I’ve been through.”
“The only thing, obviously, with a scar, is when you are in the showers here people ask questions. I don’t mind talking about it now.”
But it has taken the six years since the operation for the Rangers star to feel more comfortable talking about the life-threatening condition which could have ended far more than just his sporting career.
When the Rangers Charity Foundation announced the British Heart Foundation as its new charity partner for the 2023/24 season, Connor felt the time was right to talk about his heart condition.
“Truthfully, I’ve never really spoken about it openly because it was a difficult time, but I also felt fortunate that I was able to continue playing, so I’ve never really wanted sympathy,” he says.
“Obviously going back to it, it was tough. My wife, Kayleigh, who was my girlfriend back then, always tells me that I need to speak about it, but I find it difficult.”
After-training showers have prompted many chats: “When new players see the scar on my chest there’s always a big reaction straight away. I was so fortunate; I was out for like 3 to 4 months and have never had a problem since,” he says.
“I see people in football who have knee operations or ankle operations, or broken legs, that are out for a lot longer. Of course, when you do your knee it’s not life threatening, the risk of mine, well I was obviously going to die …”
Specialists consider surgery when the aorta route is 50mm diameter and at Connor’s first scan his was 49mm and 50mm at the second.
“Basically, if I wanted play football, I had to have it done, there was no ifs or buts,” he says.
“I could have stopped playing right then, and it was my decision, but if I wanted to continue playing, I had to get it done. The surgeon said they had to fit a stent because it could have popped at any point.”
There were risks associated with the surgery, but these were outweighed by the risks of not having the surgery – although Connor says his only thought back then was getting back to the game.
“Nothing else mattered and all I really cared about was whether I could play football again,” he admits.
Young and fit, Connor bounced back from the operation on 30 March, and was back in preseason just four months later, in July.
“But a lot has changed since then. I got married and now I have two children, and they are the highlights for me. Looking back, football was my priority and I still love the game and I love what I do and want to continue doing it for many years, but now that I have a family and children, they are the most important things.”
Connor, now 30, has the heart rates of both his children – Caleb, five, and Connor, who will be two in February – tattooed onto each wrist, taken from the baby scans before they were born.
“It reflects what I’ve been through, and they mean everything to me. Instead of having their names, their heart rate seems a lot more appropriate,” he says.
Every time he walks onto the pitch, he kisses both wrists and his wedding finger, which is also inked with the significant date from 2021.
Connor’s condition was picked up in a random checkup scan and he believes, were he not an elite sportsperson, it would probably have remained undiagnosed.
“To be fair I always half knew that I had something,” he admits. “My dad had a heart attack when he was younger while playing football with his friends, luckily, he’s still alive, then another when he was older.
“Deep down I always knew there was something there. I remember I fainted a few times, if I got up too quickly or hadn’t eaten enough. That used to happen quite often but, on the pitch, I never felt anything.”
Despite the trauma of the diagnosis, which reduced him to tears, and the operation soon afterwards, Connor says he feels no aftereffects. His annual check-up has been fine ever since, and he says he has been able to channel his heart scare in a positive way.
He gets out his mobile phone and shows everyone the graphic picture of his heart in his wide-open chest during surgery. It’s an incredible image and an arresting reminder of exactly how the advances in medical research mean Connor is here to tell his story.
He adds: “I feel very fortunate that I still get to do my day job, very fortunate that since the operation I’ve managed to have a family and I’ve got two healthy children, so I don’t feel that it has ever harmed me in a way that means trauma is still there.
“I see it as quite a positive thing now that I’ve been fortunate to have gone though. It has made me appreciate everything that I have even more and has put life into perspective because I know it can end at any time.”
Connor is thrilled that the Rangers Charity Foundation has pledged to raise £25,000 for the British Heart Foundation over the course of the season and aims to encourage as many fans as possible to learn lifesaving CPR via the charity’s free online training tool, RevivR, which can be accessed HERE.
“The BHF do an amazing job and I’m happy to help in any way,” adds Connor.
“We live in a world where nobody really does anything until it happens to you. It’s only when it happens to yourself or someone you know, then you realise the importance of CPR.
“I can do CPR, maybe not perfectly but I know what to do.”
When asked about his plans for Christmas, Connor smiles: “Football, football, football.”
Training doesn’t pause on Christmas Day, but with two young children at home Connor says he’ll be up extra early to watch his boys open their presents and will be looking forward to getting back to them for a family day.
“As I get older, I’m more able to reflect on situations and now feel like I can work as hard as I can and whatever happens in the game happens. I’ll watch the game back once and after that I go home and see the kids and be a dad – and that’s the most important thing to me.”
You can watch the full interview with Connor on our You Tube channel HERE.