Musician’s Remarkable Journey from Heart Attack to Harmony   

Musician’s Remarkable Journey from Heart Attack to Harmony

Mike Sinatra

Early one morning, Mike Sinatra of Lavallette, NJ, stepped out of his house to walk his Italian greyhound pit bull mix, Bella. When Mike and Bella returned home, Mike, then 63, started his daily exercise routine: 30 minutes of light weightlifting, followed by a four or five-mile walk. 

But only 15 minutes into his walk, both arms felt heavy, and he was a little short of breath. Mike wasn’t overly concerned. He hadn’t eaten yet, so he thought his electrolytes might be off.

Recognizing the Signs of a Heart Attack

Thinking all he needed was some water and a little salt, he returned home. But there, he felt even more “off”—no pain—but his upper body felt achy. Mike had spent a lifetime exercising and being careful of his heart health because of a family history of high blood pressure and heart attacks. When he started having heart palpitations, he didn’t hesitate: he asked his wife to call 911.

In the ambulance, the EMT set Mike up for an EKG. Mike, who is also a local musician, told the EMT he was playing a gig in Toms River that night. The EMT looked at the EKG and then at Mike. “He says, ‘You’re not playing tonight,’” remembers Mike. “‘You’re having a heart attack.’”

As the ambulance sped toward Ocean University Medical Center, the EMT laid the defibrillator paddles on Mike’s chest—just in case—and relayed the EKG results to the hospital care team. 

Mobilizing a Specialized Team for Heart Attack

Thanks to the advanced notice from the EMTs, the team was ready. Like right out of a TV hospital drama, standing in the doorway waiting for Mike at the hospital was Arthur Okere, M.D., an interventional cardiologist, and his “Code STEMI” team. “The doors opened and there were like 10 people standing there with Dr. Okere in the middle,” Mike says. “He was telling everybody what to do. Everybody knew they had a particular job, and they did it like a well-oiled machine.”

Already knowing Mike was having an ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI), Dr. Okere and his team rushed Mike up to Ocean’s new Dr. Robert H. and Mary Ellen Harris Heart and Vascular Center and checked his heart for blockages. They found a 99% blockage in the left anterior descending artery, also known as the “widow-maker” artery. 

Dr. Okere immediately inserted a stent—a device placed in the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart—and in what felt like no time, Mike found himself recuperating in a coronary care unit. “I’m done,” he texted his wife, who wrote back, “You want me to pick you up?” Everything had happened so fast that she was still at home and didn’t know he had a heart attack.

Record-breaking Stent Insertion Time

From the time Mike arrived at the hospital to the time Dr. Okere began the stent insertion was 21 minutes. Dr. Okere beat his 2015 record by two minutes.

For serious heart attacks like Mike’s, national heart organizations recommend a stent be inserted into the blocked artery in less than 90 minutes from arrival at the hospital, Dr. Okere says. Across the Hackensack Meridian Health network, the goal is 60 minutes. The Code STEMI team assembles as soon as the call comes in and works in complete synchronicity.

“We want to be swift but safe,” Dr. Okere says. “The faster you open up the artery, the more likely the heart muscle will recover quickly and the person can go back to living their normal life, as opposed to having congestive heart failure for years and then needing a heart transplant.”

Within two months of his heart attack, Mike’s heart function is back to normal, and while he’s not performing on stage again yet, he is playing his guitar and singing every day. “The only time I can sit still is when I’m playing the guitar,” he says. “It’s the only time I’m at peace.”

 Next Steps & Resources

  • Meet our source: Arthur Okere, M.D.
  • Understand your risk for heart attack with a simple screening like AngioScreen or CT Calcium Scoring scan. 
  • To make an appointment with a cardiologist near you, call 800-822-8905 or visit our website.
  • Learn more about heart care at Hackensack Meridian Health.

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.


Subscribe to get the latest health tips from our expert clinicians delivered weekly to your inbox.

We use cookies to improve your experience. Please read our Privacy Policy or click Accept.