A Tale of Two Hearts on the Mend

Danbury Hospital

DANBURY, Connecticut – February 18, 2016 – When 66-year-old Southbury resident Maureen Lizarazo went to bed after spending a weekend in Boston with her husband Joe, she just didn’t feel quite right. “I couldn’t get comfortable and I felt pressure in my chest, between my upper shoulder blades and I found myself walking around the room rubbing my jaw,” Mrs. Lizarazo said.

“I adjusted the pillows and tried going back to sleep, but I just couldn’t. I continued having this vague feeling of heaviness in my chest and shoulder blades, but I had no pain,” Mrs. Lizarazo added.  “So I woke up my husband and said I need to go to the hospital, I think I’m having a heart attack.” Mrs. Lizarazo’s symptoms were classic for a heart attack.

Life Saving Decision

On September 8, 2015 at three o’clock in the morning, shortly after the Lizarazos arrived at the Danbury Hospital Emergency Department (ED), Maureen was escorted to an exam room and connected to a diagnostic electrocardiogram (EKG). “A few minutes later the ED nurse said I was having an acute heart attack and reassured me not to worry because everything was going to be okay,” Mrs. Lizarazo said.

Mrs. Lizarazo was emergently brought to the cardiac catheterization laboratory where interventional cardiologist Dr. Hal Wasserman, director of the cardiac catheterization laboratory at Danbury Hospital, together with the cath lab team, performed an angioplasty with stent placement to unblock an occlusion in the right coronary artery.  The artery causing the heart attack was opened just over an hour after Mrs. Lizarazo arrived at the emergency department.  “It is very rewarding to treat patients like Mrs. Lizarazo” said Dr. Wasserman.  “Getting the occluded artery open quickly leads to better survival after a heart attack.  The staff and physicians of the cardiac catheterization laboratory are available round the clock for just this reason.”

Building a Stronger Heart

After having the angioplasty, Mrs. Lizarazo went to the intensive care unit for a few hours then moved to an inpatient unit where she stayed for two days. That’s where she met with an exercise physiologist who gave her information about the cardiac rehabilitation program at Danbury Hospital. “It sounded right and I knew it was the right thing to do,” Mrs. Lizarazo said. “I was overweight and had genetic risk factors for heart disease, so participating in a medically supervised cardiac rehabilitation program at the hospital made perfect sense. I knew I’d feel safe and secure there.” 

Today, Mrs. Lizarazo continues to exercise three times a week at the Marcus Cardiac Rehabilitation Center at Danbury Hospital. “I enjoy it, which I find amazing, because I don’t like to perspire. But I’m doing it and I have so much more energy now.”

Mrs. Lizarazo credits the entire cardiovascular team for guiding her through a difficult time. “They were all so kind and knowledgeable,” she says. “Everyone I came in contact with is so caring and professional – everyone just stands out.”

“I still can’t believe I had a heart attack because I feel so good now that my artery is open and not clogged,” Mrs. Lizarazo said.  “The world is out there for me and I plan to go out there and get it,” Mrs. Lizarazo added. “There’s no reason for me not to forge ahead because I feel so good.”

Something’s Not Right 

Sixty-one-year-old Frank Barbato of Oxford has been physically active most of his life. “I have always considered myself to be in relatively good shape. I go walking regularly and used to jog, run and had previously participated in five New York City Marathons,” Mr. Barbato said.

Last fall, while on a walk with his wife Nancy in their neighborhood, he felt a numbness and discomfort in his left arm and a slight pain in his chest while walking up a steep hill. “At the time, I didn’t think too much about it and shrugged it off deciding to take a ‘wait and see’ attitude,” Mr. Barbato said. “Then when the symptoms returned at home after walking up a flight of stairs and bending down to lift something, I knew I had to do something.”

 

At work the next day, Mr. Barbato consulted with John Fisher, P.A., a Danbury Hospital Corporate Health Care physician assistant at the Cartus Corporation. “John took charge and helped push me in the right direction and that’s just what I needed,” Mr. Barbato said. “He contacted Danbury Hospital, made an appointment for me where I had a stress test, cardiac ultrasound and consultation with a cardiologist.” 

“Both tests were abnormal, so I was scheduled to undergo a cardiac catheterization on December 2, 2015 with interventional cardiologist Dr. Sumit Tickoo to see if I had any blockages,” Mr. Barbato said.

“The cardiac catheterization revealed one of my coronary arteries was 95 percent blocked so Dr. Tickoo performed an angioplasty and inserted a stent into the blocked blood vessel to keep the coronary artery open and improve the blood flow to my heart,” Mr. Barbato said.  

Mr. Barbato was taken to a recovery area after the procedure then transferred to a patient care unit where he stayed overnight. While there, an exercise physiologist from the cardiac rehabilitation program stopped in to meet him and explain the benefits of taking part in the program. “I listened and agreed to participate because I wanted to get in better shape so I could walk and run again,” Mr. Barbato said.  “Another advantage is the fact that specially-trained staff monitor you while you’re exercising.” 

On discharge day, Western Connecticut Medical Group cardiologist Dr. Apranta Patel prescribed several medications that he would need to take. “She also gave me some great advice when she said, ’Now get out there and start doing what you want. What you had is repairable and it’s repaired,’ ” Mr. Barbato recalls.  

Going the Distance for Heart Health 

Mr. Barbato is currently in the Phase II exercise program at the Marcus Cardiac Rehabilitation Center at Danbury Hospital and plans to continue exercising at the new fitness facility where he works.

“I feel so much better now,” Mr. Barbato said. “I’ve even changed my eating habits for the good and I plan to continue to do so.”

When asked what he plans to do when he retires,” Mr. Barbato replied, “I want to start running again.”  

Listen to Your Heart

For more information on how to recognize the signs and symptoms of a heart attack, go to heart.org.

If you or someone you know suspects they may be having a heart attack, remember to act quickly and call 9-1-1.

About the Praxair Regional Heart and Vascular Center

The Praxair Regional Heart and Vascular Center at Danbury Hospital offers life-saving cardiovascular care.  Our highly trained specialists and skilled clinical teams are supported by the most advanced technology, which allows them to rapidly diagnose and effectively treat cardiac and vascular diseases. The program has an accredited Chest Pain Center and has an experienced team of doctors, nurses, and technicians recruited from the finest academic medical centers available 24/7 for emergency treatment of heart attacks. Our Vascular Surgery Service is Vein Center accredited, an award shared by less than 50 vein centers nationwide.  Our patients experience the best service and outcomes in the region while staying close to home because all the resources they need are right here.

At the Praxair Regional Heart and Vascular Center, patients have access to a range of services, including disease prevention, diagnostic testing, interventional cardiology, transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) endovascular stenting, electrophysiology and minimally invasive and open cardiac and vascular surgery. Additional resources include the Marcus Cardiac Rehabilitation Center, the Women's Cardiac Program, clinical research trials, and support services and programs. The Center participates in the accredited training program for interns, residents and cardiovascular disease fellows.

About Western Connecticut Health Network

Western Connecticut Health Network is the region's premier, patient-centered health care organization serving residents of Western Connecticut and adjacent New York. The organization is anchored by three nationally recognized hospitals, Danbury Hospital, New Milford Hospital and Norwalk Hospital, as well as their affiliated organizations. In addition to the three hospitals, the continuum of care offered includes numerous medical practices and sub-specialties across the region, home health care services, a nationally renowned biomedical research institute, the Western Connecticut Health Network Foundation, the Norwalk Hospital Foundation and other affiliates. For more information, visit our websites:  www.danburyhospital.org; www.newmilfordhospital.org; and www.norwalkhospital.org. For more information, visit WCHN.org. Share your comments with us at Facebook.com/DanburyHospital; Facebook.com/NewMilfordHospital and/or Facebook.com/NorwalkHospital.