Carlos M Heart Failure - Carlos' Story

“It’s a miracle, I feel blessed every day.”

Carlos, a 49-year-old accountant from Florida was healthy and fit and working in Elizabeth, NJ during tax season this past March. Without warning, he suddenly awoke in the middle of the night with pain so severe he thought his chest would explode. His head was pounding, he was drenched in sweat, and so short of breath he could hardly utter the words to his wife to “Call an ambulance!”

Without delay, Carlos' wife called 911 and when the ambulance arrived, the EMS team assessed her husband’s condition and said “You are having a heart attack; you need to go to Newark Beth,” she remembers. She wanted Carlos to get care quickly and luckily, Newark Beth Israel Medical Center is only a few miles from Elizabeth.

Carlos was admitted to the Coronary Care Intensive Care Unit (CCU) at Newark Beth Israel where physicians conducted a series of tests. With no family history of heart disease, interventional cardiologists Marc Cohen, MD, Chair of the Department of Medicine and Gautam Visveswaran, MD, worked quickly to determine the cause of his duress.

Despite breathing tubes attached and intravenous medicine, fluid was rapidly accumulating in his lungs. Even with the breathing machine his oxygen concentration was terribly low. He had suffered a massive heart attack and one leaflet of the mitral valve in his heart had ruptured. Instead of blood moving forward to his body, it was moving backwards to his lungs.

Mark J. Zucker, MD, Director, Heart Failure Treatment and Transplant Program and his team worked alongside the critical care nurses in the CCU to try to stabilize Carlos enough to even allow him to safely undergo emergency valve repair surgery. As the situation continued to worsen, it became necessary to place him on a bedside heart-lung machine known as ECMO.

After a few days on ECMO, Newark Beth Israel’s Chair of Cardiothoracic Surgery Craig R. Saunders, MD took Carlos to the operating room to undergo valve surgery. The operation took several hours and the advanced heart team maintained careful watch during his recovery post-op. Although Carlos was critically ill upon arrival and virtually had a 90% chance of not surviving the heart attack, valve rupture and subsequent surgery he did remarkably well. In a little over two weeks, he was stable enough to be discharged home.

“Carlos came to us in the nick of time,” says Dr. Zucker. “The decision of the paramedics to transport him to Newark Beth Israel was critical in his chain of survival. Few hospitals in New Jersey or even in the metropolitan area actually have the depth and breadth of advanced heart failure specialists and the proper equipment concentrated in one location. The teamwork and coordination was nearly perfect for Carlos. We are all very proud of our ability to cooperate across specialties in order to provide patients like Carlos with the care they need when they need it most.”

Carlos and the heart specialists at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center
Mark J. Zucker, MD, Director, Heart Failure Treatment and Transplant Program, Carlos, Craig R. Saunders, MD, Chair of Cardiothoracic Surgery and Gautam Visveswaran, MD.

The rainy New Jersey spring prompted Carlos to travel back home to continue his recuperation in Florida. His wife believes that her husband is alive today because of the care he received from the team of specialized cardiac physicians at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. “It’s a miracle, I feel blessed every day.”

Now Carlos walks 30 minutes a day and was recently reunited with the physicians who saved his life when he visited Newark Beth Israel for his 6 month follow up appointment. Carlos says he feels great, his doctors complimented him on his Florida tan and he continues to get stronger every day.