David G A Heart in Good Hands - David's Story

Innovative heart surgery techniques at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center saved the life of a Roselle man.

Rev. Dr. David Grier, 60, of Roselle, NJ, walked into Newark Beth Israel Medical Center (NBI) last year with a fatal heart condition and walked out with a new lease on life.

The major blood vessel in his heart, his aorta, had been stretched thin and enlarged to greater than three times its normal size. Even more dangerous, its inner layer had started to tear, a condition known as aortic dissection.

He appeared so healthy, but his heart was dangerously damaged.

David’s only real symptom had been the tiredness that was slowing him down in his work as assistant pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Plainfield, but testing revealed that David’s aorta was three to four inches in diameter, instead of the normal one inch. He was at high risk of a sudden and life-threatening tear.

David needed aortic arch repair, one of the most complex and formidable operations a cardiovascular surgeon can perform.

Protecting the Brain

On December 3, a team of NBI cardiothoracic specialists began the 8-hour-long surgery needed to perform the aortic arch repair and replace the diseased parts of the blood vessel.

At about a foot long, the aorta is the body’s largest artery. It runs from the heart, through the chest and down into the abdomen. As the aorta goes across the top of the heart, it forms an arch, from which smaller arteries branch off to provide blood to the head, neck and arms. The arch was the area of David’s heart that was enlarged and needed to be replaced.

In order to perform the aortic arch repair, the surgical team must stop all blood flow through the heart for about an hour.

In David’s case, he would also need an innovative technique known as brain perfusion, a complex procedure where the surgical team must keep blood pressure in the brain high enough to protect it, but low enough to avoid damaging the delicate blood vessels there.

The surgical team cooled David’s entire body below the neck to just below room temperature and then connected him to special devices that would keep blood pumping to his brain and throughout the rest of his body during the procedure.

The staff at NBI is very experienced and use specialized tools designed specifically for this procedure.

A Life Renewed

With blood flow to the Rev. Dr. Grier’s heart stopped for 45 minutes, the team was able to replace the damaged aorta; then restart blood flow and bring his body back to a normal temperature.

Surgery was a success. David spent three weeks of recovery at NBI, followed by three more weeks in a rehabilitation facility.

David cutting his 60th birthday cakeNow back at home and getting his life back to normal, David reflects on all the events that brought him to this point: surviving such a serious heart condition for so many weeks, then having experts who could perform an incredibly difficult operation just 10 miles from his home, and at a hospital he had never before visited.

“God had a hand in orchestrating it all,” David says.

Your heart doesn't beat just for you. Get it checked. Make an appointment with one of New Jersey's top cardiac specialists, or call: (888) 724-7123.