Posts Tagged ‘patient stories’

Atlanta Man Narrowly Avoids Heart Attack – Do You Know When to Go?

Know When to Go to the E.R.Saint Joseph’s Hospital patient and triathlete, Joe Michalak, narrowly missed a heart attack by listening to the risk factors of heart disease. On Father’s Day weekend, he felt some tweaks in his chest and instead of ignorning his symptoms, he went to the hospital right away. Luckily, Joe listened to his body. In hindsight, he had a 95 percentage blockage in his left anterior artery and 80 percent blockage in another one.

Learn more about Joe’s symptoms and what prompted him to make a trip to his local E.R. at Saint Joseph’s Hospital.

Emory Teams Giving Back During Holidays

Emory gives backThe Emory Department of Cardiology started an annual holiday tradition 15 years ago when one of the employees asked that instead of exchanging gifts within the department they could sponsor a family in need.  Each year the tradition has grown and the department has worked with the CASA (Fulton County Court Appointed Special Advocates) to support 20 children per year!

This year, the cardiology department team expanded the reach of their tradition, by including the Departments of Medicine and Cell Biology. In doing so, our Emory team was able to provide holiday gifts for 56 children that are in the care of the Fulton County court system.  These are children that have either been abandon by their parents or removed from their homes by the courts. They are housed in dormitories and temporary foster homes and truly in need of  help.

Emory team members purchased gifts ranging from toys, to bikes, to clothing, to books and educational aids for the children for the holiday season to bring some extra joy their way. Unfortunately, doing so during the holidays is not enough. The need is great and occurs year round.  Everything from diapers to iPODs are needed for these children from our Atlanta community.

We hope to continue to expand this effort across Emory Healthcare and Emory University in the years ahead.  Many children will have a little more joy in their day because of the generosity of a small group of employees.  What would the world be like if we all shared a little of what we have with those in more need than us?

Have you started a holiday tradition to give back? If so, please share yours with us in the comments below!

Patient Story – Can Stress Lead to a Heart Attack?

Stress & Heart Attack RiskEmory patient, Donna Fielding, a healthy looking 41 year old mother of two is sure that stress and her high-intensity type A personality lead to her heart attack at 37. Her heart attack taught Donna to “take a step back, take a deep breath, and make a decision.” She doesn’t let the “little things” in life ruin her days any longer.

Emory physicians are doing research to study the connection between stress and heart attack risk. According Emory physician, Dr. David Sheps, when you get stressed your heart rate and blood pressure go up.

View Donna’s story and learn about the research Emory is doing in a video from Fox 5 Atlanta, below:

Take control of your stress and potentially reduce your risk for heart disease!

Heart Attack Atop Stone Mountain?

Atlanta Heart Walk 2011We hope having a heart attack on Stone Mountain is not something you will never have to worry about, but for one Emory Heart & Vascular Center patient, he had to take quick action to save his life. Luckily Howard Dean survived to tell the story and is now participating in the Emory HeartWise Heart Disease Risk Reduction program. He has even returned to hike Stone Mountain since that crazy day. View this Fox 5 Atlanta piece on Howard’s story:

To help keep your heart healthy, register to join us this Saturday, October 29th for the American Heart Association’s Metro Atlanta Heart Walk! If you don’t have a team, you can join our Emory team!

  1. Visit www.atlantaheartwalk.org
  2. To register as a participant, click Register and then click “I agree to the waiver.”
  3. Select Join a Team. Find Emory Healthcare in the drop-down box, and find the name of the team you want to join.
  4. Login to your personal Heart Walk page and personalize it by telling your story and adding a photo.

Surviving an Aortic Dissection: A Patient Survivor’s Story

Karthik Kasirajan, MD

Karthik Kasirajan, MD

In his last blog post, Dr. Veeraswamy outlined what aortic dissection is, what the symptoms are and what you can do to prevent it. Although it is best to detect aortic dissections early, it is possible to survive one. Emory Healthcare patient, Gene Winfrey is a living example. At another local hospital Gene was told he wouldn’t survive surgery to repair the aortic dissection. But Gene is tenacious and decided to schedule an appointment at Emory and he is glad he did. Gene not only survived surgery he is thriving and traveling all over the country as an evangelist. Gene says, “I tell people everywhere I go about Emory and about what happened to me. I am living proof about what happened.”

As mentioned in the last aortic dissection blog, men ages 60 – 70 are most likely to have an aortic dissection and it is relatively uncommon but it is the most common aortic emergency we see at the Emory Heart & Vascular Center. Most patients come in urgently with severe chest or abdominal pain. If not recognized and treated immediately, the tear will go through blood vessel and it is unlikely the patient will survive.

Gene knew he needed help and needed it quickly. We explained to him that if the outer layer of the aorta burst, he would have little chance of living through the dissection. We were adamant that the stent needed to be put in right away.

Luckily for Gene, treatments have changed from the past so he was a candidate for a more minimally invasive method to treat the dissection called endostents. In the past the only way to treat an aortic dissection was through open surgery. The patient benefits from the less invasive ways of performing surgery and is typically able to get home more quickly and return to work sooner with limited complications. Emory is unique in that we have access to devices that are not yet on the market.

Gene had run the Peachtree Road Race 27 straight times before this and wanted to make sure he could maintain his active lifestyle that included riding horses, playing golf and playing tennis.  I advised Gene that he could do whatever he feels like doing, and he is doing just that. He is one of the most active 88-year-old persons  I have ever met!!

Gene summarizes his experience at Emory as follows “They (the other hospital) said we can’t do it. You can’t live through it. I came here and Dr. K said you can. I am 88 years old and still living. I advise anyone to come to Emory, I think it is the greatest in the world.”

Check out our video about Gene and his story below, or visit our website to learn more about Aortic Dissection & Gene’s story:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VqN1YmWCJYo

About Karthik Kasirajan, MD:
Dr. Kasirajan specializes in surgery and vascular surgery, and has been practicing at Emory since 2003. Several of his areas of interest include peripheral arterial disease, endovascular surgery, abdominal and aortic aneurysm, vascular surgery, thrombotic disease, and stroke. Dr. Kasirajan holds many organizational leadership memberships, including the European Society for Vascular Surgery, International College of Surgeons, and the Peripheral Vascular Surgical Society, and is widely published in publications such as the Journal of Endovascular Therapy and the Journal of Vascular Surgery.

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.

Coronary Artery Disease Treatment – A Patient Story

Michael Halkos, MDMichael Armstrong joined the gym to get some aerobic exercise and lose some weight. One day, he was walking on a treadmill when he noticed pain in his chest as well as pain that went up into his throat. The pain then began radiating down his left arm.

Michael has worked in the health care industry for many years, so he quickly realized what he was experiencing could be signs of a heart attack, and he consulted his primary care physician. Michael told his physician about the symptoms and the physician quickly referred him to me at Emory University Hospital Midtown for an innovative procedure called hybrid coronary revascularization.

As I mentioned in my previous blog post about hybrid coronary revascularization, this procedure is typically performed on a patient who has blockage in the artery in the front of the heart and one other blood vessel with disease in it. This unique approach is a best of both world’s strategy where we combine durability of surgery with the minimally invasive nature of a procedure called stenting. Optimal therapy with this minimally invasive approach translates into shorter recovery time, potentially fewer complications and a quicker return to work. Emory is one of only a few centers in the nation offering this procedure.

Michael Armstrong sums up his experience:

“I didn’t know what to expect, this was my first hospitalization in my life but I was comfortable getting my heart care at Emory University Hospital Midtown. Dr. Halkos had done more than 100 robotic surgeries so I was very impressed with that. Dr. Halkos knows the road you are about to take together is treacherous and comes across as very knowledgeable while still friendly and empathetic.  Now shortly after the surgery, I am back to full exercise, I walk around the neighborhood with my wife, and even last weekend I walked to the top of Stone Mountain with a friend. That made me feel good. I know Emory talks about quality patient and family centered care, but actually experiencing it was pretty wonderful.”

Watch Michael’s story in this video.

Do you have questions or feedback? If so, please leave them in the comments section below.

About Michael Halkos, MD
Dr. Halkos is a cardiothoracic surgeon at the Emory Heart & Vascular Center. He specializes in minimally invasive adult cardiac surgery. He is leading the innovative Emory work with the hybrid coronary revascularization procedure being performed at Emory University Hospital Midtown. He finished his Medical School, Residency and Fellowship at Emory University School of Medicine and is a member of the American Medical Association.

Back to Life After an Aortic Aneurysm – Part II

As part of our commitment to providing the best patient-centered care possible, our team of physicians, nurses, specialists, and staff make advancing the medical possibilities a priority each and every day. There are only so many factors we can control, however, and sometimes, it is perfect timing coupled with the efforts of our team that make treatment for our patients that much more successful.

Warren "Allen" Owens

Take Allen Owens, for example. He may be someone you’re familiar with if you frequent our heart & vascular blog. We introduced you to him in a post a few weeks back detailing his remarkable story. Prior to arriving at Emory, Allen experienced 8 heart attacks, 21 congestive heart failures, 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.

It may sound like Allen faced a run of unfortunate health bad luck. After all, he did what he could to prevent a decline in his health. He’s not a smoker or a drinker, and considered himself to be a relatively healthy adult.

Perhaps surprisingly, it was when his local doctors were out of answers that Allen’s life (and luck) changed for the better. He was referred to Emory and last summer, received another diagnosis to add to his plate – Allen’s abdominal aorta was weakening and he had developed an aortic aneurysm that was ballooning and could burst at any time. You may be wondering, what’s lucky about that? The majority of aortic aneurysms are found after they burst, and fortunately, doctors caught Allen’s prior to this happening.

What’s more, Allen’s health wasn’t strong enough to undergo another heart surgery to repair the problem. Once again, Allen’s luck was changing for the better. At about the same time that Allen was diagnosed with his aortic aneurysm, Dr. Joseph Ricotta, a vascular surgeon, had just transitioned his career at the Mayo Clinic to working at Emory Healthcare. At the Mayo Clinic, Dr. Ricotta had perfected a new procedure to treat aortic aneurysms, an alternative aortic aneurysm treatment he brought with him to Emory– the use of fenestrated and branched aortic endografts, a procedure Dr. Ricotta has performed approximately 120 times thus far.

Six months after performing this revolutionary procedure for Allen, Dr. Ricotta told Fox 5 News the graft is working perfectly, “The aneurysm’s shrinking actually. There’s no evidence of leak and all the branches to his intestines and kidneys are open and look very good.”

The procedure and Dr. Ricotta’s presence in Atlanta have hopefully put an end to this Cherokee County native’s run of bad luck. It’s Allen’s hope now, that with his condition under control, he will be able to qualify for a heart transplant. “This will be eight years in April, that I’m not supposed to have,” Allen told Fox 5 News.

You can learn more about the fenestrated and branched aortic endograft procedure for aortic aneurysms, and learn more about the story of Allen Owens by watching this video from Fox 5 News below:

“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.

Peripheral Artery Disease: Donna Seaman’s Story

My name is Donna Seaman, and I’d like to share my story of Peripheral Artery Disease with you.

First—a little background for you: I’m from Massachusetts, and I’ve lived in Atlanta for over 35 years now. I attended Emory University and majored in business before becoming a buyer for Rich’s (now Macy’s). I enjoyed the best of both worlds in that I spent several years as both a working Mom, and several as a stay-at-home Mom. I live in Dunwoody, and I have two children—a 26-year-old daughter, and a 23-year-old son.

I’ve been playing tennis now for over 20 years, and once I hit my late 40s I began to notice some leg pain and swelling. At the time, I attributed it to normal wear and tear, and assumed it was also due to all of the years I spent on my feet working in the retail industry. When the pain worsened after about a year or so, I knew it was time to seek medical help.

When Dr. Niazi asked me if I was experiencing any other symptoms, I shared the fact that my tennis game had been really “off”, and that I had noticed that I was stumbling around more and feeling clumsier in general. I would also pick up items and unintentionally drop them. I didn’t think much of these particular symptoms, but the folks at Emory really took notice when they heard me mention them, and decided to run some more tests.

After the tests, Emory called me with the results and informed me that not only did I have peripheral artery disease in my legs, the carotid artery in my neck was 97% blocked. (My neck artery blockage was what was causing the stumbling and clumsiness.) Dr. Niazi immediately warned me not to have any neck rubs or massages, and to exercise caution when I was getting my hair washed at the salon or bending my neck. With 97% of the artery blocked, I was dangerously close to experiencing a stroke.

Initially, I had less invasive procedure that involved the physician going through my groin area and then up into my neck in order to place a stent. However, after reviewing the results of the procedure, Dr. Niazi realized that my condition was worse than he anticipated. He recommended that I undergo total carotid artery surgery, which was necessary given my younger age and the severity of the blockage.

A week later (in October of 2009), I was back at Emory for the carotid artery surgery that would clean out the build-up of plaque.  I was in the hospital for three days for the procedure. I left Emory with a scar on my neck and the knowledge that I’d come dangerously close to having a potentially fatal stroke. In my mind, it’s a sort of miracle that my condition was discovered the way it was—if it weren’t for Dr. Niazi’s proactive treatment of my PAD, I’m not sure I’d be here to tell you my story today.

About a month later, I was treated for the PAD that was present in my legs. This was a much simpler procedure—and was practically right in and out of the hospital for it.

Since the surgery, I started taking medication for cholesterol and high blood pressure, and I have yearly checkups to the doctor. I no longer feel any pain in my legs when I exercise. My walking is better, and my balance has improved greatly.

I can’t say enough good things about Dr. Niazi and the team at Emory who treated me. They’re personable, professional, and top-notch, and they took a personal interest in me and carefully listened to me speak about my concerns and symptoms. I feel very fortunate that I was in such good hands and that I escaped the life-threatening repercussions of PAD.