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Louis Sciarrino

A Life Saved

Holy Name Cardiac - Louis-Sciarrino

He noticed the room lost all color, first turning to black and white before fading to total darkness. Meanwhile, Louis Sciarrino heard his wife tell him she loved him and felt her kiss his cheek. He knew an emergency department nurse at Holy Name Medical Center was giving him CPR, though he felt no pain as she continued to pummel his chest.

Louis was dying from a massive heart attack and he knew it. He wasn’t afraid but he was angry – at 57, he didn’t want to leave his wife, Michele, and two daughters – Danielle and Natalie – especially without being able to say goodbye to the girls. He flatlined three times, but then, suddenly, his eyes opened and he was being wheeled to surgery.

“I heard the nurses (Denise Lynam and Gabrielle Mulderrig) say they weren’t giving up on me and kept giving me CPR,” Louis said. “The whole team at Holy Name didn’t give up on me and they saved my life. They did such a great job that now, a year later, I have no heart damage.”

It was a Saturday morning when Louis sat on his couch to watch TV while his wife went into another room, scanning the internet for a job. She lost hers the day before. Louis felt some discomfort, maybe indigestion from a late breakfast, he thought.

Then his beagle, Hailey, jumped up and laid her head on Louis’ chest and cried. And cried and cried. Louis yelled for Michele to come in and see what was wrong with Hailey. Instead, she saw that Louis’ discomfort had progressed to pain. “By then, I felt like someone put their fist in my chest and was squeezing.” He also started sweating profusely.

Michele brought him to Holy Name and dropped him at the door of the emergency department, despite Louis’ protests that he could walk from the parking lot. Turns out, he probably wouldn’t have made it.

In the emergency department, as soon as he said he was having chest pains, a medical team rushed to work on Louis. Only 10 minutes later, he flatlined for the first time. He suffered a seizure and his heart stopped two more times. But he was fighting as hard as the staff was – twice he sat up on the gurney and tried to pull the tubes out, though he has no memory of it. He marvels at the way fate unfurled to keep him alive.

“If my wife didn’t lose her job – she normally works on Saturday and wouldn’t have been home – or the dog didn’t keep crying, or Holy Name’s staff didn’t work on me so quickly, I don’t think I’d be here today,” Louis said. “At home, I probably would have just fallen asleep and died right there. I know I wouldn’t have called an ambulance for myself.”

Louis believes he would have succumbed to the same disease that killed his mother at 53 – blocked arteries that led to a massive heart attack. The main artery to his heart was completely clogged, and two others were 85 percent blocked. Over the next several days he had three procedures to implant five stents.

Dr. Zankhana Raval, the cardiologist at Holy Name who treated Louis, later met with him to explain what happened and what his future looked like. He recovered well from the procedures and with good cardiovascular rehabilitation, Louis could get back to his daily activities, she said.

“Dr. Raval is amazing,” Louis said. “She told me my arteries were badly clogged but they’ve addressed it and I can lead a normal life.”

Louis had always been active – he dismantled a pool and deck only weeks before his heart attack – and embraced cardio rehab. He progressed well and was working towards returning to his job as a college chef. Then COVID-19 hit.

Cardio rehabilitation, like other non-emergency services, was stopped until Holy Name could ensure patients receiving all medical services would be safe. Louis exercised at home to continue his recovery and didn’t lose much of the progress he had made. When he could return, he never considered avoiding the hospital due to COVID.

“When I went back to rehab a few weeks later, I wasn’t nervous at all about going to the hospital,” Louis said. “The staff took every precaution they could – wearing masks, social distancing, so much cleaning, even when I walked by the cafeteria I saw that everything was individually wrapped – I knew Holy Name would keep me safe from covid.”

When talking about his experience, Louis adds one other aspect that he said was vitally important.

“They allowed my wife to stay in the room while they were working on me,” Louis said. “I don’t think every hospital does that and it helped so much – seeing my wife there made me fight even harder. Today, I’m back to work and doing everything like before, though my girls keep telling me to slow down and take breaks. I’m so grateful to Holy Name for saving my life.”

Learn more about Louis Sciarrino's Cardiologist