Ken B Ken’s Cardiac Comeback

“Dr. Torre literally saved my life; I was on the brink of a catastrophe.”

Ken Baris, CRB, CRS, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeService, Jordan Baris Realty, has an immense feeling of gratitude when it comes to living in a community that has Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center (CBMC). “They saved my mother’s life, they saved my father’s life, and now, they have saved my life,” said Ken.

Family History
When it comes to the Baris family, they have had a long history with CBMC. It started back in 1998, when Ken’s father, Jordan, was in need of a kidney transplant.

“We have a very public business, founded in 1952 by my father which I am pleased to be told it is among the most respected real-estate brokerage firms in the state and we are very well known nationally. More than one-hundred thousand families that bought their homes from us,” said Ken. “However, as public as we are about our business, is how private we are about ourselves personally, particularly health wise” shared Ken.

When it became apparent that his father was having kidney problems, and required a kidney transplant, they did not share that with anyone. Ken, would be his father’s living kidney donor. After the transplant, someone spoke with his father about the good that could come from sharing his story with others. His dad agreed, as Ken said, “He felt like it was a responsibility after CBMC had saved his life.”

“It turns out that person was right, his story did receive a lot of publicity,” Ken continued. “Since 1998, I don’t think a month has gone by, without somebody mentioning it to us.” In witnessing the impact that his father’s story created, he now feels compelled to share his own story about having a 90 percent blockage in the left anterior descending (LAD) artery of his heart.

Ken Baris

Ken’s Story
Ken never thought, almost 26 years after his father’s life-saving kidney transplant, that CBMC also would save his life. He lives a self-described super-active lifestyle; running a large business, playing golf, tennis, pickleball. However, he shared he had begun to feel like his body was starting to have some problems --not terrible problems, but weird things that he would brush off or attribute to other things.

Thinking the pain in his left arm was from an injury, Ken went to the doctor and physical therapy. He was taking medicine for what he thought was reflux, but was actually chest pain. Concerned that the increased shortness of breath he was experiencing was the result of asthma, a condition which he has had his entire life, he went to see a lung specialist at CBMC. Their advice was very clear – Ken needed to see a cardiologist.

Ken visited Sabino R. Torre, MD, a cardiologist with Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center and a member of RWJBarnabas Health Medical Group. “Dr. Torre, who is just a hero, was unbelievably calm and reassuring, but aggressive in his efforts to find out what was wrong with me. He figured all this out and literally saved me in the nick of time,” Ken recalled.

Dr. Torre told him that he was going to need an angiogram, and Ken said he was going to need a couple of weeks because he was going away.

“Dr. Torre remained very calm and comforting,” said Ken, “but also extremely direct in figuring it out and making sure in the meantime I did not do something foolish.” He abided to Dr. Torre’s advice to do the angiogram.

Dr. Torre explained that an angiogram is considered the gold standard for evaluating blockages in the arterial system. An angiogram detects blockages using X-rays taken to look at blood flow through the arteries.

Following the angiogram, Dr. Torre discovered that Ken had a 90 percent blockage of the LAD. “My heart was trying to have a heart-attack multiple times, but because I’ve kept myself in very good shape, my heart somehow managed to push through,” shared Ken.

“When you hear about a young athletic person dying in an instant, it seems unexplainable. Sudden death in athletes may have many causes, but coronary artery disease is a common cause as patients approach a certain age. Ken had a blockage in the left anterior descending coronary artery (LAD) or ‘widow maker,’” shares Dr. Torre. “More than half the blood flow that supplies oxygen to your heart muscle itself passes through this vessel. Any significant narrowing of this vessel in particular can be life threatening. Fortunately, Ken had symptoms which tipped me off that he may be in danger.”

While Ken was in the hospital, he shared, “The nursing staff was beyond belief. They were so kind, they were so comforting, they were so on it. There is a difference between somebody coming in and doing their job and somebody who really cares and wants you to be doing better and were rooting for me. It felt like everybody was on my side.”

Life Now
“Not only did I come out with a zero percent blockage, I no longer need an inhaler now, and there’s no medicine for reflux anymore. My body feels so good, and I am doing unbelievably well physically.”

“I really was at the end. Dr. Torre literally saved my life. I was on the brink of a catastrophe. I’m back to what I’m doing better than ever now, it’s unbelievable,” said Ken. “Don’t get me wrong my life has been great, but I had been struggling, and I am realizing how much more I can do now that I don’t have a severe blockage.”

Just two weeks after the procedure, Ken was back with his company in New Orleans, at a conference, running around feeling fabulous. In fact, he stayed about 1.25 miles from the convention center, sharing that he walked back and forth every single time for five days.

If there is one thing Ken would share from his story as advice, it would be the following; “If you have left arm pain, or are getting short of breath, or if your chest is hurting, don’t pretend that it’s not. Listen to your body and your doctors, and go take advantage of the unbelievable care that you would get at Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center.”

About CBMC’s Heart, Vascular and Thoracic Care
No one plans on heart problems. But everyone should have a plan for them. Make a plan for your heart health at Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center. Our multidisciplinary team of experts provide comprehensive, compassionate care.

Learn more about our programs and specialties, which include diagnosis, treatment, and continued support for people living with cardiovascular and thoracic conditions.