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A heart saved in a hectic world

Vincent is grateful he called 911 and for the emergency heart surgery that saved his life.

Man in wheelchair with mask and scrubs holds a red heart pillow and poses with masked medical staff.
Thanks to lifesaving care from his medical team, Vincent's heart is beating strong.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Vincent B. has been making the most of his time at his home in Staten Island, NY. When he’s not busy working remotely, the 62-year-old attorney enjoys working on projects around the house. But one day as he was planting an apple tree in his yard with his wife, Deborah, he felt a sudden pain in his chest.

“I thought I must have overdone it with the digging,” he said. “I had thumping in my chest, and shortness of breath—something I’ve never experienced before.”

Vincent rested for a few hours, hoping the sensation would dissipate, but it didn’t. After speaking with his primary care physician, he called an ambulance. Paramedics were unable to stabilize his heart—he needed to be taken to the hospital.

“I didn’t know if I was going to see my wife again, and I was scared to go to the hospital in the middle of a pandemic. It was all very frightening,” Vincent recalled.

Upon arriving at the Heart Institute at Staten Island University Hospital, Vincent was immediately rushed to the ER and defibrillated to regulate his heart rhythm. He was then taken to the cardiac catheterization lab where an interventional diagnostic test revealed he had coronary artery disease (CAD)—blocked or narrowed arteries in the heart. He would need quadruple coronary artery bypass graft surgery, an invasive procedure that would clear the obstructions and restore proper blood flow.

Vincent’s surgery was a success, thanks to his skilled care team, including Chair of Cardiothoracic Surgery , and cardiothoracic surgeon .

Now he needed to focus on recovery. Given the current state of the hospital, the cardiac surgery recovery room was being used to treat critically ill coronavirus patients. But Vincent’s team provided a safe, effective solution so that he would not be exposed to the virus—they converted the operating room into a Cardiac Intensive Care Unit.

“They created a whole room just for me,” Vincent said. “I was so impressed by how they innovated at a moment’s notice to help make it as safe as possible during this time. The whole team was top-notch.”

Over the next five days, Vincent was closely monitored by his doctors in his own private recovery area. He also received physical therapy to keep his body moving and blood flowing, which according to Vincent, helped tremendously.

Red-haired woman and gray-haired man, both in black sunglasses, smiling in front of a yellow sign.
Being reunited with Deborah means everything to Vincent—the two have been married for 26 years.

On discharge day, Vincent was ready to head home to his wife. As he was leaving the hospital, he was greeted by his care team with a celebratory send-off.

“You don’t want to need this level of care, but it’s comforting to know it’s available, especially during a crisis like this,” he said.

As part of his recovery, Vincent’s doctors gave him a heart monitoring vest to wear at home. The innovative device, which has its own Wi-Fi hotspot, detects rapid heart rhythm and delivers a treatment shock if needed. It also transmits real-time data to Vincent’s electrophysiologist, , and cardiologist , so they can track his progress.

Reflecting on his own experience, Vincent strongly believes that if he didn’t make that call to 911, he wouldn’t be here today. He has an important message for anyone who ends up in a similar situation: "Please don’t wait to get the care you need. Call for help right away.”