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Cardiovascular Testimonials

Steve Laufer

Steve Laufer

Steve LauferSteve Laufer (right) poses with his wife (left) for a photo. They are both smiling and stand outside with a garden backdrop.

My wife Sondra and I went to a Billy Joel concert one rainy night to enjoy some great music and each other’s company. After parking the car and staring up at the ominous sky, I suggested we run for cover before the slight drizzle gained momentum.

By the time we ran the short distance from the parking lot to the venue, I began feeling extremely fatigued. Attributing the sharp pains shooting up the middle of my back to be nothing short of the pains of aging, I didn’t give it a second thought. Little did I know that I was actually on the verge of having a massive heart attack.

The back pain persisted which eventually led me to make an appointment with a chiropractor. After receiving a clean bill of health, I decided to visit my primary care physician for a second opinion. I was referred to Dr. Henry Cusnir, a cardiologist at Florida Medical Center – a campus of North Shore, who performed a stress test, an electrocardiogram and also ordered my blood work.

The results of my EKG were so poor that Dr. Cusnir admitted me to the hospital right away. Not only had I failed all of the tests, but the results also showed severe blockages in the arteries leading to my heart. It was truly a miracle that I was still alive.

Dr. Alfredo Rego, a thoracic surgeon and the medical director of the Heart Institute of Florida at Florida Medical Center, took over my case to perform a coronary artery bypass graft. The doctor and his highly skilled medical team performed my surgery flawlessly. I couldn’t believe the occupational therapists had me up and walking later that same day!

During my week and a half long stay at the hospital, everyone from the doctors, to the nurses, to even the housekeeping staff treated me like a king. They were very attentive to my needs and were always kind and reassuring to my family and friends who frequented my hospital room.

I couldn’t be more grateful to Dr. Cusnir, Dr. Rego and the staff at Florida Medical Center for saving my life. Thanks to them, I’ll have another chance to sing a song with the piano man, only this time, healthy and pain-free.

This testimonial reflects results achieved by this patient. Each case must be independently evaluated and managed.

After the procedure, I felt surprisingly good. In fact, I was able to go home the very next day. Two days after the surgery I was cleared to be back in the gym working out my upper body. Four days after surgery I was back at work and feeling great!

I am very appreciative to have benefited from a physician and a hospital who are both committed to ensuring patients like me have access to the latest technology for treatment of a cardiac condition like mine.

Thank you Dr. Cusnir and the caring staff at Florida Medical Center for helping me continue to run, lift and bench press my way through life. I am 71, but I look and feel 20 years younger! As I often think to myself while lifting weights, “The pain you feel today is the strength you’ll feel tomorrow.”

This testimonial reflects results achieved by this patient. Each case must be independently evaluated and managed.

Robert Cubellis

Robert Cubellis

Robert Cubellis poses at the center, surrounded by 3 family members.

My wife, Marjory, and I have been together for 44 wonderful years, and are snow birds who love the Florida sunshine. We are appreciative of our life together and try to make the most of every day, but there was one day in March, 2013 that changed our lives forever. It started out as any other beautiful spring day, the kind South Florida is known for.

I was getting ready to go out and play a round of golf when a sharp pain in my back sent me crashing to the floor. I couldn’t move and my wife couldn’t help me. She immediately dialed 9-1-1. There would be no game of golf for me on this day.

Instead, I found myself in the back of an ambulance as the paramedics rushed me to Florida Medical Center, a campus of North Shore. It turned out that I was bleeding internally, and there was a five-minute window for me to get diagnosed and receive medical care.

The screaming pain in my back that had been building inside my body and then burst was an aortic aneurysm. I feel that I am lucky that I was taken to Florida Medical Center, home to The Heart Institute of Florida. I believe this is what saved my life.

Moments after the ambulance brought me in, the work-up began that showed the rupture of the aortic aneurysm and I was rushed off to surgery. Treatment of an aortic aneurysm is time-sensitive, and the staff of Florida Medical Center sprung into action.

When I awoke, my wife told me the details of everything that had taken place. From the professional and skilled care I received by the emergency personnel in the ambulance to the doctors and nurses who saved my life at Florida Medical Center.

When my life was in jeopardy, these devoted medical teams worked together to make sure I had the best possible chance of survival and we want to give them our highest praise. Without the dedicated work of cardiac and vascular surgeons Dr. Alfredo Rego, Dr. Efren Buitrago and the fast thinking of Emergency Room physician Dr. Louis Isaacson, I may not have survived.

Ironically, I already knew quite a bit about aortic aneurysms, and that they can be deadly. My father had an aortic aneurysm in his early 80’s. Aortic aneurysms can be hereditary or caused by disease.

What I did not know was that being proactive with a screening could have prevented my aortic aneurysm. That is the reason why I want to share my story. Every man over the age of 50-years-old should have a test for an aortic aneurysm. Believe me, the men in my family will.

Today, I’m back on the course working on scoring more birdies than bogies, but I am certainly grateful to be back in the swing of things. My wife and I look forward to spending many more winter seasons in South Florida. We have the peace of mind to know that if we need medical care, Florida Medical Center is certainly above par!

This testimonial reflects results achieved by this patient. Each case must be independently evaluated and managed.

Richard Obregon

Richard Obregon

Richard Obregon is a middle aged man wearing a hospital gown as he stands on the right side, next to his doctor who smiles and stands to his left.

Four years ago, Richard Obregon found out he had a heart condition that changed his family’s world forever. His condition, Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT), caused his heart to sometimes beat rapidly.

Richard was recently working at a construction site in a new housing community in Jupiter, Fla. when the heat overwhelmed his heart, causing it to speed up to an alarming rate. He went into cardiac arrest, and it stopped beating altogether.

Richard’s friend who was working with him immediately began performing CPR. Paramedics who worked as security guards for the neighborhood took over and shocked him to get his heart started again.

When Palm Beach Gardens Fire Rescue arrived, the paramedics had to shock Richard’s heart again in the ambulance. For a short time, he was clinically dead.

Richard’s wife and children were in Miami at the time. So when they found out what happened, they rushed over to Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center where he was being treated.

“The hour and a half drive to the hospital felt like the longest drive of my life. I had no idea what kind of condition he’d be in when I got there. I kept thinking about our kids and how they would react if I had to tell them their father wasn’t coming home,” recalled Ary Herera, Richard’s wife.

Richard was on a breathing machine, and according to the E.R. doctor who treated Richard, Dr. Scott McFarland, when he arrived to the emergency room, he was barely alive.

“His heart was beating 286 times per minute, too fast to pump blood effectively to his brain,” stated Dr. McFarland. “We had to shock Richard’s heart for a third time, then sedate and intubate him before we were able to get a pulse-producing rhythm back.”

Because Richard’s heart was so weak, Cardiologist Dr. Jyoti B. Mohanty had to put in a pacemaker and defibrillator right away.

“We all excruciatingly waited for Richard to wake up,” Ary said. “We had no idea what to expect and what the extent of his brain damage was. Would he be able to talk? Would he remember us?”

The surgery was successful, and days later, Richard was finally able to go home. While he was excited, he knew the rest of his journey would be a struggle. Despite the memory loss, Richard feels so grateful to be alive and wants to spend as much time as possible with his biggest passions, his two children.

“No words can explain how thankful we are to everyone who saved his life, including his friend who knew CPR, the EMTs and the entire staff who cared for him at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center,” Ary said.

Richard feels it was a stroke of luck he ended up at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center since his family is from Cuba and they currently live in Hialeah, Fla. And so many people knew CPR and were able to keep him alive until he made it the PBGMC Heart & Vascular Center.

Richard said, “Being at PBGMC was the best thing that could have happened to me.”

This testimonial reflects results achieved by this patient. Each case must be independently evaluated and managed.

Michelle Kellem

Michelle Kellem

Headshot of a smiling, happy Michelle Kellem

2:36 a.m. on July 12, 2011 is a time and date Michelle and Erik Kellem will always remember. Erik, Michelle and the children, a 4-year-old girl and 1-year-old boy, are asleep. Erik suddenly wakes, he has a sense something was wrong. His wife of seven years, Michelle, lies next to him. Erik takes a closer look at Michelle and wonders, “Why are her eyes wide open?” “Instantly I knew something was not right,” Erik would later say. “She wasn’t breathing.”

Upon Michelle’s arrival to Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center, doctors and nurses induce a hypothermic coma, which sounds both scientific and frightening; in reality, it’s an effective medical procedure that simply involves a cooling vest. After suffering a cardiac arrhythmia (an irregular heartbeat), she is treated with hydrotherapy to prevent brain or organ damage after a heart attack. The doctors and nurses apply the tactic with expert care, slowing the internal processes of Michelle’s body by cooling her to between 89 and 93 degrees.

“They thought I needed a transplant,” Michelle recalls. Michelle’s heart was dangerously weak that a transplant was likely her only hope.

Next, doctors had to make the critical decision for her course of treatment, and they determined Michelle was a perfect candidate for the Impella Pump. The treatment team at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center knows that the Impella pump will buy time by decreasing stress, improving blood flow, and performing the heart’s own work. The Impella Pump is a very tiny “heart pump.”

Michelle was rushed to the right hospital; Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center is one of only two in the county that uses the Impella pump. “The Impella heart pump was critical in keeping her alive,” says Erik. “Without that, she wouldn’t have made it through the day on July 13th. And for the doctors, I can’t thank them enough.”

To Michelle, life is precious, and a gift that she was given by the team at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center. “I just want to say thank you to everyone who helped and worked on me. It means the world to me, and I’m so happy to be able to hold my kids again.”

This testimonial reflects results achieved by this patient. Each case must be independently evaluated and managed.

Louis Willa

Louis Willa

Louis Willa poses for a headshot, with a gentle smile.

It started one sunny day on the golf course roughly six years ago when I went to take a swing and felt slightly short of breath. I continued to feel this way every so often, but I didn’t think anything of it. I hoped it would go away on its own, but it just worsened over time.

Eventually I couldn’t walk any distance at all without feeling out of breath. A few weeks later, I was sitting at home with my wife when my chest started to feel like it was being crushed by a ton of bricks. My wife rushed me to Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center.

My cardiologist, Dr. Jacob Litwinczuk, diagnosed me with Aortic Valve Stenosis, a disease of the heart valves. I found out I needed a new heart valve. However, my cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr. Richard Faro, felt I would not be able to make it through another surgery. So I waited, hopeful that a new revolutionary procedure would become available that could save me.

Six years later, I learned that the Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) procedure had arrived at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center. Dr. Litwinczuk told me I would be the perfect candidate. He said the procedure is minimally invasive, which typically means a shorter hospital stay and less side effects.

TAVR was pretty much my only option. I wasn’t necessarily nervous, but I was anxious. I knew my prayers had been answered, and this was my chance for survival.

On June 7, 2013, I became the very first patient to undergo the TAVR procedure at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center. Five excellent doctors were involved with my surgery. My cardiothoracic surgeons were Dr. Faro and Dr. Arthur Katz. My cardiologists were Dr. Litwinczuk and Dr. Augusto Villa. I am forever grateful to them for making it possible to receive my new valve.

The recovery time was amazing. I was back on my feet three days later. Two weeks after the surgery, I was able to take a shower without huffing and puffing. I feel like I can do anything. My wife had me walk through the mall parking lot the other day, and not once did I get out of breath.

At this rate, I know I’ll be back on the golf course soon. I am so excited for what the future holds and am very fortunate to be able to spend more time with my beautiful wife.

Because of this procedure, we will be able to celebrate our 53rd anniversary together. Not only has TAVR successfully saved my life, but it now has the potential to extend the lives of many others.

This testimonial reflects results achieved by this patient. Each case must be independently evaluated and managed.

Judith Ruiz

Judith Ruiz

Judith Ruiz (left) poses with her husband (right). Her husband has his arm around her.

After 62 years of marriage, I know without a doubt in my heart that my husband Alfonso is my soulmate. To this day, we are there for each other through the good times and the bad. Thirty years ago, my husband needed open-heart surgery. Wanting him to have the best care possible, we decided that he would undergo his procedure at one of the leading heart hospitals in the area, Florida Medical Center. Thankfully, everything went smoothly, and I remained by his bedside the entire time. After overcoming that rough patch together, I never thought we would be tried again in such a similar scenario, this time, dealing with my own heart health.

When I turned 85 years old, I started experiencing frequent chest pain, back pain and fatigue. My son, Humberto, and my grandson, Felipe, noticed that I would break-out in sweats on a regular basis. I even collapsed and fell to the ground a few times. Feeling in my gut like something was wrong, I decided to go see a doctor. After several tests were performed, to my surprise I was given a clean bill of health. My family was not satisfied with this diagnosis and sought a second opinion.

Further testing revealed that I had a heart murmur. Remembering the positive experience with Dr. Arnold Ghitis, the cardiologist at Florida Medical Center whom my husband consulted after his open-heart surgery, I felt confident that he would handle my case just as flawlessly. During my first procedure, Dr. Ghitis inserted a catheter in my aortic valve and discovered I had significant scarring. He immediately referred me to his colleague, Dr. Alfredo Rego, a thoracic and cardiac surgeon, who performed the surgery to remove my scar tissue.

I am so thankful for the compassion and patience both doctors showed me and my family during this challenging time. They took the time to explain my condition in detail, which definitely helped calm my nerves. For the two weeks I stayed at the hospital, the nurses in the Intensive Care Unit went above and beyond their professional duties to provide my family with the emotional support we desperately needed. I couldn’t be happier with the way we were treated at Florida Medical Center.

I am working diligently with my rehabilitation specialists so that I can get back to my old routine. Sixty-two years ago, my husband and I vowed that through the pressures of the present and the uncertainties of the future, we would stick by each other’s side. Thanks to the doctors and medical staff at Florida Medical Center, I can look forward to making the most out of the rest of our lives together.

This testimonial reflects results achieved by this patient. Each case must be independently evaluated and managed.

Delia Ortiz

DELIA ORTIZ

Delia Ortiz (right) poses in a floral shirt, alongside her doctor (left), in a medical office.

There are certain events in our lives that make us step back and appreciate the things we hold close to our hearts.

For me, it’s the love and support of my family. They were there for me when I was recently diagnosed with a serious heart valve disorder called mitral regurgitation.

My journey began earlier this year. I had just finished my shift as a laundry aide when an unusual sickness came over me.

I went home and felt my heart pounding hard inside my chest. I had no idea what was happening to me. Was I having a heart attack? I was terrified and knew I had to see my doctor as soon as possible.

I scheduled an appointment with my primary care physician, and she recommended I visit Dr. Augusto Villa, an interventional cardiologist at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center.

Dr. Villa discovered that I had a severe case of mitral regurgitation, which meant that my mitral valve was letting blood leak into my heart. He said I had several options but suggested I undergo the MitraClip procedure.

Dr. Villa explained this new, non-invasive alternative to heart surgery would involve inserting a device into my heart through a vein in my leg that would help my heart pump blood more efficiently.

Even though I felt confident in Dr. Villa and his team’s abilities, I was nervous going into the procedure. What if something happened and I never saw my family again?

Fortunately, I didn’t have much time to worry. Before I knew it, a nurse wheeled me into the recovery room, where my family was waiting to greet me. I couldn’t have been happier to see them.

My two-day recovery period at the hospital was a blessing. The nursing staff was wonderful, constantly checking up on me to make sure I was comfortable.

Thanks to my new MitraClip device, I feel stronger and more alive than ever. I couldn’t be more grateful to Dr. Villa and the cardiac team at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center for helping me overcome my condition and develop a new appreciation for life.

For anyone else who suffers from the same type of heart disorder and is thinking about having this procedure, I can only say this: Close your eyes and do it. If not for yourself, do it for your friends, your family and all the people who matter in your life.

This testimonial reflects results achieved by this patient. Each case must be independently evaluated and managed.

Alexandra Richter

Alexandra Richter

Alexandra Richter is a young woman wearing a purple shirt and white plants. She poses from her knees up, in front of a lake.

February is National Heart Month, and in my role as the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women Director for Palm Beach County, saying I was busy was an understatement. My whole calendar was filled with activities, events and meetings.

I had been recently promoted to this position, and I was going a mile a minute to make sure everything was perfect, despite the fact that my body was telling me to slow down. I had been dealing with fatigue and momentary vision loss, but I just chalked it up to stress. I actually thought it was somewhat normal with how busy I had been, and I was almost embarrassed to ask for medical care. That would certainly change.

I remember it clearly. It was the day before Valentine’s Day, and I was at work and sitting in a meeting. I started to feel the same symptoms of fatigue and vision loss, but this time was different. They were so severe, I couldn’t ignore them. I excused myself to go to the bathroom, but I never made it. I fainted and my supervisor immediately called 911.

I woke up in an ambulance, and I couldn’t believe I was there. I thought it was a little ridiculous that I would be receiving this level of medical attention. Luckily, the paramedics knew better, and I was taken to Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center where I was finally able to understand the seriousness of my condition.

Nancy

Nancy

Nancy smiles as she holds a white small dog, in a backyard.

About three years ago, I experienced a burning sensation in my esophagus. I thought it was acid reflux, but over the next day the pain worsened. I contacted my primary care physician, who gave me Prilosec to treat the condition, but it did not help and the burning continued to worsen.

I went to a cardiologist who made an appointment to have an ultrasound and stress test done the next week. However, the pain was unbearable and the burning made it hard for me to sleep. I called Good Samaritan Medical Center and within five minutes of the call I was told to come to the hospital where I was seen immediately.

After my ultrasound was completed, the doctor came and reviewed it with me. He also discussed my family’s history of heart disease. The ultrasound showed blockages around the heart and he told me it was important that I have a heart catheterization done immediately.

He explained to me in detail what the procedure entailed. I signed the consent, a nurse came in and I was brought into the operating room. The doctor talked to me during the entire procedure. He explained that stents are not required unless the blockage is 70% or more. However, I had two blockages that were 90% and I needed the stents immediately.

After the procedure, I was taken to the recovery room where I received great care from the hospital’s staff; I’ve never received so much attention in my life. A nurse stayed with me all night since I had some bleeding from the site. The next morning, specific instructions were given, a follow-up appointment was made and I was allowed to return home.

I thank the staff and doctor at Good Sam for saving my life. I cannot say enough about the wonderful and professional staff at Good Sam and I would recommend them to everyone.

This testimonial reflects results achieved by this patient. Each case must be independently evaluated and managed.

William Morse

William Morse

William Morse (right) poses with Doctor (left), as they lean again a medical examination bed.

There’s no denying it… I am a self-proclaimed gym rat. I exercise twice a day, every day, around my work schedule. Lifting weights is my absolute favorite thing to do. I put my entire heart and soul into body building.

One day however, something was different. I felt a familiar tug in my chest after working out. I knew from past experience that something was wrong.

Nearly 30 years ago, I had a heart attack. I underwent by-pass surgery six years later due to five blocked arteries. That is why I knew to take the symptoms of heart palpitations and difficulty catching my breath after working out very seriously. I had been healthy ever since these past procedures and dedicated to my exercise regimen, so these warning signs were surprising.

I visited my primary care physician right away and he recommended I see Dr. Henry Cusnir, an interventional cardiologist on the medical staff at Florida Medical Center. From the moment I met him, I felt really comfortable with him. I had a complete cardiology work-up and the results caught me off guard.

Despite my commitment to a healthy lifestyle, Dr. Cusnir diagnosed me with coronary artery disease which required a coronary catheterization. In the past, my condition would have required open heart surgery.

Dr. Cusnir instead recommended an innovative, less invasive procedure that would allow me to have an easier recovery and shorter hospitalization. This could be done with a new technology at Florida Medical Center called the Diamondback 360. I was actually the first patient in all of Broward County to benefit from this equipment.

After the procedure, I felt surprisingly good. In fact, I was able to go home the very next day. Two days after the surgery I was cleared to be back in the gym working out my upper body. Four days after surgery I was back at work and feeling great!

I am very appreciative to have benefited from a physician and a hospital who are both committed to ensuring patients like me have access to the latest technology for treatment of a cardiac condition like mine.

Thank you Dr. Cusnir and the caring staff at Florida Medical Center for helping me continue to run, lift and bench press my way through life. I am 71, but I look and feel 20 years younger! As I often think to myself while lifting weights, “The pain you feel today is the strength you’ll feel tomorrow.”

This testimonial reflects results achieved by this patient. Each case must be independently evaluated and managed.

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