Posts Tagged ‘Emory Heart & Vascular Center’

Emory Saved My Life: One Patient’s Journey

kristen-leone250x250I was born with Congenital Heart Disease. The first four years of my life were spent in and out of hospitals, and the first two took an incredible toll on my family, particularly my mother. In 1976, at just two years of age, I became the first baby ever to survive open heart surgery. Little did I know that nearly 38 years later I would be fighting for my survival again; this is the story of how Emory saved my life.

It all started back in February, 2013. I woke up one morning coughing and feeling incredibly fatigued, and my symptoms continued to progress over the course of the next few months. By May, things had gotten much worse, to the point that getting up the stairs became a battle. I was having a normal lunch with my mother on July 6th of that year, and as we went to leave my heart suddenly began to race faster than I’ve ever felt before. I immediately knew something was seriously wrong.

I was rushed to the Emergency Room, my heart beating at 221 beats per minute. I spent the next two nights in the Cardiac Care Unit, until Monday, July 8th, when I was transferred to Emory University Hospital. When I got to Emory, I had two teams of cardiologists working on my situation, which was growing more dire by the moment. I was dealing with a bad lung infection, my complete blood count was down, and my heart and kidneys were beginning to shut down, leaving me completely hopeless.

I panicked. The realization that I may die hit me like a freight train. I yelled, cried and had a full-blown meltdown right there in the hospital. I was so frightened of what may come next. My doctor, realizing how scared and embarrassed I was, leaned over and told me, “It’s understandable, Kristin. You are allowed to feel what you’re feeling. Just know that you’re in safe hands now and we’re working on your case 24/7.” I’ve been in so many hospitals throughout my life, but at that moment I knew I was in the best possible place for me.

My doctors at Emory told me I had to have an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD), or “pacemaker” installed, and that without it my survival rate would be around seven percent. I was overjoyed to learn there was a solution to my problem. With my family by my side, I went through the surgery and was ready to endure the long hospital stay to get better.

My surgery was a success. I’d spend the next couple of weeks at the hospital recovering from my lung issues and getting healthy enough to retake control of my life.

My experience over those next weeks at Emory was eye opening. Aside from the top-notch medical service, the treatment my family and I received was incredible. We were kept informed of every decision that was being made, the doctors outlined a clear vision for my path to recovery, and they went above and beyond in their commitment to my comfort and health. In one instance, my doctor refused to go home for the night, staying at the hospital and checking on me every hour to make sure I was doing well.

When my family had questions they were answered immediately, and they were permitted to stay by my side throughout the lengthy recovery process. The entire staff, from the doctors all the way down to the custodians, was the friendliest group of people I’ve ever encountered in any hospital. I truly couldn’t have asked for a better place to get well.

I’m now almost two months removed from what I thought was certain death, and I’m so thankful to Emory for saving my life. Their compassion, love and patient care is something that I’m reminded of every day when I wake up and look in the mirror, because were it not for them I wouldn’t be here today.


Emory Participates in 2014 Metro Atlanta Heart Walk

Emory Atlanta Heart WalkEmory Healthcare once again joined the American Heart Association (AHA) in raising awareness of heart disease, aka “the silent killer,” at the 2014 Metro Atlanta Heart Walk on Sept. 20. The non-competitive, three-mile walk raises funds to help fight America’s No. 1 and No. 4 killers, heart and stroke, through corporate, survivor, and community teams who encourage others to donate to the cause.

The Metro Atlanta Heart Walk is deeply embedded within Emory Healthcare culture. Every year, hundreds of Emory Healthcare employees sign-up to lead teams, raise money and walk to benefit initiatives driven by the AHA. More than 1250 Emory Healthcare employees walked among the 15,000 registrants, and raised $225,000, the most of any corporate sponsor in Georgia.

The AHA’s work in research and prevention aligns with the Emory Healthcare’s mission to educate health professionals and leaders for the future while pursuing discovery research in all of its forms. With 29% of Georgians reported as obese, the event is designed to help participants understand how critically important it is to incorporate as little as 30 minutes of physical activity in their daily lives to prevent cardiovascular disease.

The American Heart Association’s goal is to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent and to reduce deaths from cardiovascular disease and stroke by 20 percent by the year 2020. For information about heart screenings, please visit or call 404-778-7777.

Christine Nell – Dybdahl Awarded 2013 Life Changer Award

HeartWise events AtlantaEmory Heart & Vascular Center, Nurse Practitioner, Christine Nell – Dybdahl, MSN, MPH was recently awarded the 2013 Life Changer Award by the Health Monitor Magazine, in conjunction with the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP).

Christine was nominated by two of her patients in her preventive cardiovascular clinic who nominated her because of her great compassion and concern for all of her patients. One patient noted, that “Christine has so much humanity that she brings to the office”. The award recognizes and honors outstanding service to patients and community care by nurse practitioners.

Christine has been a nurse practitioner at Emory for 14 years and is currently the Clinical Nurse Director within the Emory Center for Heart Disease Prevention. She also is very active in the Women’s Heart program at Emory. She is adjunct faculty with the Emory School of Nursing. We are very proud to have Christine as a part of the Emory Heart & Vascular Center team!

Learn more about this honor and about Christine in this short video

Simple Test Can Help Predict Future Risk for Heart Attacks

New research indicates that a blood test that is relatively simple can predict a patient’s risk of suffering a future heart attack. Physicians can determine what patients need more aggressive testing and treatment as well as those who are low – risk patients so they can avoid unnecessary tests. Before this research was completed it was not possible to differentiate a patient with heart disease who was at risk for a future heart attack versus a patient who was not likely to suffer future cardiac events. Therefore, cardiologists are now able to quickly treat the at risk patients and monitor those at lower risk.

Emory cardiologist Arshed Quyyumi, MD and Stephen E. Epstien, MD of MedStar Heart Institute are the senior authors of this research. During the research they studied over 3400 cardiology patients who had confirmed coronary artery disease or suspected disease. Each patient was followed for over 2 years.

Read the full news article and more about the new findings that were published in the Journal of American College of Cardiology.

About Arshed Quyyumi, MD

Dr. Quyyumi is a Professor, Division of Cardiology, Emory University School of Medicine, Co-Director, Emory Clinical Cardiovascular Research Institute (ECCRI)

Dr. Arshed A. Quyyumi has been involved in clinical translational research in cardiovascular diseases for over 25 years. Dr. Quyyumi received his undergraduate degree in Pharmacology and medical degree from the University of London, England. He completed his residency at Guy’s and Royal Free Hospitals in London, and cardiology fellowships at National Heart Hospital, London; Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston; and the National Institutes of Health. After completion of his residency and fellowship, he served in several capacities in the Cardiology Branch of National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, NIH in Bethesda, MD, including Senior Investigator and Director of the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory. In 2001 he was appointed Professor of Medicine in the Division of Cardiology at Emory University School of Medicine, and in 2010 he was named Co-Director of the Emory Clinical Cardiovascular Research Institute (ECCRI). Since 2005, Dr. Quyyumi has been awarded more than $9 million in research funding. He serves on the Editorial Boards of several national journals, is a member on several Scientific Advisory Boards, and is a reviewer for the NIH-NHLBI Study Sections. Dr. Quyyumi has authored more than 180 peer-reviewed publications and has been an invited speaker and session chair at numerous National and International scientific meetings and conferences.

Dr. Quyyumi’s research focus includes vascular biology, angiogenesis, progenitor cell biology, mechanisms of myocardial ischemia, and the role of genetic and environmental risks on vascular disease. Other interests have spanned the fields of personalized medicine and disparities in cardiovascular diseases. During his academic career, Dr. Quyyumi has carried out more than 50 NIH, industry-funded, or investigator-initiated projects, including numerous clinical trials.

Related Resources

New Research Shows Calcium Supplements May Be Dangerous to a Man’s Heart

Calcium Supplements Man Heart Disease StrokeA recent study by the National Cancer Institute and other researchers showed that men who consumed more than 1,000 mg of calcium a day experienced a higher risk of death from heart disease and stroke after the 12 year study period.

Emory Healthcare and Saint Joseph’s Hospital cardiologist Gina Lundberg, MD providers her recommendations to her patients about calcium supplements. She recommends that her patients eat foods high in calcium such as skim milk and Greek yogurt and avoid the supplements.

Read the full USA Today article to find out more recommendations about how to protect your heart in the most appropriate ways.

Emory Healthcare Honors one of the Pioneers of Cardiology, J. Willis Hurst, MD

Dr. J. Willis HurstDr. J Willis Hurst passed away Saturday, October 1, 2011 at 90 years old.  Dr. Hurst meant so much to Emory as a world-renowned cardiologist but also as a beloved teacher and  mentor to many physicians and staff. An outstanding teacher and writer, Dr. Hurst was also an internationally recognized clinician, having served as personal cardiologist to former U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson, as well as other government leaders.

Dr. Hurst graduated from the University of Georgia in 1941. He then graduated from the Medical College of Georgia, where he was first in his class, in 1944. He was an intern and first year resident under V. P. Syndenstricker, the well known Chief of Medicine at the University Hospital in Augusta, Georgia, from 1944 to 1946.  He entered the Army and served at Fitzsimmons General Hospital in Denver.  He then became a Cardiology fellow with Dr. Paul White, the father of American academic cardiology, at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts.

He joined the Emory faculty in 1950.  In 1954 Dr. Hurst  was recalled into the armed services and was assigned to the United States Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, where he became Chief of Cardiology. He was discharged in 1955 with the rank of Commander. While serving at the naval hospital he was responsible for the care of many senators and congressmen. Among them was Lyndon Baines Johnson. They became friends and Dr. Hurst became his cardiologist for the next 18 years, including through his presidency and afterward.

Dr. Hurst returned to Emory in 1955 and was appointed Professor and Chairman of the Department of Medicine in 1957 at the age of 36. He remained in that position for 30 years. In the early 1960s, he established Emory’s continuing medical education program in cardiology, which secured the school’s reputation in teaching, attracting cardiologists from around the world to learn how to do procedures being pioneered and perfected at Emory. Dr. Hurst also was a founding architect of The Emory Clinic.

Throughout his 55-year career at Emory’s medical school, he taught more than 5,000 medical students and 2,500 residents and fellows — roughly a fifth of all doctors currently practicing in Georgia. He received the highest teaching awards from the American College of Cardiologists and the American College of Physicians. At Emory he was a past recipient of the Crystal Apple teaching award, and in 2003, the residency training program in medicine was named in his honor.

Dr. Hurst authored or edited almost 400 scientific articles and over 60 books. The most famous of his scholarly writings is The Heart, which is the most widely used cardiology textbook in the world, first published in 1966 and translated into more than five languages.  He believed deeply in the power of good teaching, and worked to have a long term and positive influence on students, house officers, and fellows. He also wrote two novels with his son and one book for children with his grandson, Stuart Hurst, who recently graduated from Emory’s School of Medicine and is now a resident at Emory University Hospital.

Dr. Hurst received many awards and honors throughout his distinguished career. He was president of the American Heart Association, Chairman of the Subspecialty Board of Cardiology, served on the Advisory Council of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, and was President of the Association of Professors of Medicine.

We thank Dr. Hurst for all he has done for Emory  and the medical community. He will be missed by all.

4 Free Heart Disease Prevention Events this month in Atlanta

October Heart Disease Prevention EventsAt the Emory Heart & Vascular Center, we hold events each month for people to embrace their health and focus on opportunities for heart disease prevention and improved heart health. With that in mind, we are excited to announce the October events & lectures in the HeartWiseSM Risk Reduction Program Lecture Series!

The HeartWise program aims to reduce people’s risk of heart disease through education and interaction. In addition to serving patients who currently suffer from heart disease, we also provide help to individuals who could be at risk for heart complications in the future including those who smoke, do not exercise or have high blood pressure.

Admission to HeartWise events is free and everyone is welcome! Call 404-778-2850 to reserve your seat, or you can sign up for one of our October HeartWise lectures online!

Nutrition for Heart
Cheryl Williams, RD/LD
Monday, October 3, 2011
11:45 AM – 12:15 PM

Jane Whitmer, RN
Monday, October 10, 2011
11:45 AM – 12:15 PM

Heart Healthy Cooking Demo
Cheryl Williams, RD/LD
Monday, October 17, 2011
11:45 AM – 12:15 PM

Chocolate for the Heart
Cheryl Williams, RD/LD
Monday, October 24, 2011
11:45 AM – 12:15 PM

Our HeartWise events are held at The Emory Clinic, 1525 Clifton Road NE, in the 5th Floor Conference Room.

For more information on heart disease and heart disease prevention, check out our Center for Heart Disease Prevention web site.

Please feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions or thoughts regarding any of the October HeartWise events. We look forward to seeing all of you there!

Heart Transplant Patient Success Story

Dr. Vega, Emory Heart and VascularHerbert Grable was diagnosed in 2000 with congestive heart failure. When he was diagnosed, it came as a shock and he was scared. He didn’t know what caused his heart to fail and he didn’t know what heart failure treatments were available for him. He was very grateful to have the Emory Heart & Vascular Center near his home, as it offered a unique treatment for patients who are not candidates or can’t get a heart transplant right away – called Ventricular Assist Devices (VAD).

As we have discussed in previous blogs, a VAD is a mechanical device that is implanted in the heart. This pump takes over the function for the ventricle and circulates blood to the rest of the body. The goal of a VAD is to improve a patient’s survival and quality of life while they wait for a transplant (if they are a candidate for a transplant). The number of heart failure patients is tremendous, and with the number of transplants regulated per year at around 2,500 the VAD is another option for non-transplantable candidates as well.

After receiving the VAD, Herbert smiled and joked that he felt like himself again. His wife commented that the she got the “old Herbert back.” After eight months with the VAD, Herbert was again upgraded to the transplant list. One week later, he received the call  from Emory Transplant Center that a heart was available for him. Before transplant, Herbert was scared but he had faith in Emory and was determined that everything would work out. His wife was hopeful and optimistic that Herbert would be with her for many more years and would possibly see some grand kids one day.

Transplants are complex procedures. Emory transplant physicians are experts in their field and aware of all possible nuances that occur with each individual transplant patient. Should an unusual complication arise during a transplant experience, Emory has the skill to reach the most optimal outcome for a patient.

After Herbert received the heart transplant, he was able to live a normal lifestyle and do everything he always did before he was diagnosed with heart failure. He sums up his care “Emory is not just hospital, they care about the patient as well. I am so glad to have a place like Emory to treat me for this condition.”

For more information about heart transplant after the VAD procedure, watch this video:

About Dr. Vega

Dr. David Vega is a cardiothoracic surgeon at the Emory Heart & Vascular Center and the Director of Emory’s Heart Transplant program at Emory University Hospital. He implanted Georgia’s first dual pump ventricular assist device (VAD) in 1999 to serve as a bridge to heart transplantation, a procedure that initiated Emory’s ongoing national position at the forefront of the use of mechanical circulatory assist devices. In 2006, he implanted the state’s first VAD as a form of destination therapy for individuals who are ineligible for or are unwilling to undergo a heart transplant, and in 2007 he implanted an even smaller VAD for the same purpose that featured an automatic speed control mode designed to regulate pumping activity based on different levels of patient or cardiac activity.

Are You at Risk for Heart Disease?

Do you have risk factors that concern you about potential heart disease? Diabetes? High blood pressure? Are you overweight? Do you get exhausted easily from walking up stairs? If so, take control of your heart health today.

Emory’s Center for Heart Disease Prevention offers the Optimal Living Program to help you prevent heart disease. The Optimal Living Program is an eight-week lifestyle modification program designed for patients who have not been diagnosed with heart disease.

There are two different programs that are customized to fit your particular needs. The Optimal Living Basic program offers a personalized heart health evaluation, individualized help with developing a health plan of action, weight training expertise and nutrition education. In addition, the program assists you in creating a life plan so that you are able to sustain your heart healthy habits. The Optimal Living Plus program offers eight one-on-one sessions with a dietitian as well as eight one-on-one personal training sessions, complementing all the services offered in the Optimal Living Basic program.

Check out detailed information about the optimal living program.  If you have any questions about heart disease, the Optimal Living Program, or know anyone who could benefit from this unique opportunity, please let me know in the comments section.

About Dr. Laurence Sperling, MD:
Dr. Sperling specializes in preventive cardiology—his areas of clinical interest are cardiac catheterization, cardiac rehabilitation, general cardiology, echocardiogram, lipid metabolism, and electron beam computed tomography. Dr. Sperling has been practicing medicine with Emory since 1997, and has received various awards from the American College of Cardiology, the American Heart Association Council, and Emory University Hospital. He serves as medical director for a number of unique programs at Emory including the HeartWise Risk Reduction Program,  Emory’s LDL Apheresis program  and has served as special consultant to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. Sperling has been voted one of America’s Top Doctors, and has been featured often on local and national TV, newspaper, radio, and magazines.

“Back to Life” After an Aortic Aneurysm

September 2, 2010 was a memorable day for Emory patient Warren (Allen) Owens when he realized years of heart trauma were behind him.

Previously, Mr. Owens had experienced 8 heart attacks, had been diagnosed 21 times with congestive heart failure, had 13 stents placed, had 5 bypass surgeries ( (4 of them failed) and had taken 4 life flights (emergency helicopter rides to the hospital). On each life flight he was not expected to make it to the hospital because of his critical status.

Mr. Owens was referred to Emory after physicians at his local hospital were no longer able to help him with his life-threatening condition, an 8-cm aortic aneurysm that was at risk of rupturing. At Emory, patients with complex aortic aneurysms like Mr. Owens now have an option they did not have before – the fenestrated and branched endograft procedure that we discussed in a previous blog post. Now over a year later Mr. Owens is able to perform the daily tasks that he could not do before the surgery. He credits Emory physicians with “bringing him back to life.”

“I can’t put it into words how thankful I am that he was able to do what he did and bring me back to a semblance of my former life.” – Warren Owens

Listen to Mr. Owens touching story by watching the video below.

About Joseph J. Ricotta II, MD:
Dr. Ricotta specializes in vascular and endovascular surgery, and came to Emory from the Mayo Clinic in August 2010. His areas of clinical interest include fenestrated and branched endografts to treat aortic aneurysms, thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysms, peripheral aneurysms, PAD, carotid endarterectomy and carotid stenting, mesenteric and renal artery disease, and venous diseases. He has authored several journal articles and book chapters on the topic of fenestrated and branched endografts, and holds organizational leadership memberships at the American Medical Association, the American College of Surgeons, the Society for Clinical Vascular Surgery and the Society for Vascular Surgery.