Perth Amboy Woman Benefits From Program to Bring Advanced Heart Failure Care Close to Home

Isabel Ojeda

June 07, 2022

In 2011, at the age of 50, Isabel Ojeda had two back-to-back heart attacks—one that put her in the hospital and one while she was there. She avoided open heart surgery but ended up with five stents and a pacemaker.

In the decade since, the Perth Amboy woman’s heart condition worsened. She was tired all the time, couldn’t climb stairs or even walk 10 feet without getting out of breath, and her feet and abdomen were swelling. She had to stop working, and she moved in with her son. “We were afraid to leave her alone,” says Isabel’s daughter Francia.

Isabel’s cardiologist at JFK University Medical Center, Varinder Singh, M.D., diagnosed her with congestive heart failure and was concerned about how her worsening cardiac condition was affecting her kidneys and liver. He suggested she take advantage of the medical center’s Cardiac Specialty Clinic. Cardiac specialists from Jersey Shore University Medical Center and Hackensack University Medical Center have regular office hours at JFK's Cardiac Specialty Clinic to evaluate patients closer to where they live.

An Alternative to Transplant

In 2021, Isabel, who only speaks Spanish, and her children, met with Jesus Almendral, M.D. through the Cardiac Specialty Clinic. Dr. Almendral is a cardiologist who specializes in advanced heart failure, heart transplant and cardiovascular disease, and leads the Advanced Heart Failure Center at Jersey Shore.

Dr. Almendral told Isabel and her children that she may need a heart transplant, but thought a relatively new treatment might work for her first. He evaluated her for an implantable device, called the Barostim Neo System, that works with the body’s nervous system to help the heart pump more efficiently.

As one of the first medical centers in the northeast to implant the Barostim in 2020, Jersey Shore was an early adopter of the new technology, says Dr. Almendral. Recommended for patients that meet very specific criteria, the response has been good so far for the dozen or so patients who have received the device.

After Dr. Almendral discussed the device with Isabel and her family, and explained that it’s still a novel treatment, Isabel decided to have the device implanted. “She wanted to avoid the heart transplant,” says Francia.

Making Progress

Isabel’s implant surgery has so far been a success. “We’re optimistic that her progress is improving,” Dr. Almendral says.

Since the surgery, Isabel has been able to walk again without getting short of breath. “When she came to Dr. Almendral, she used to get tired just walking 10 feet,” Francia says. “She used to be so exhausted even laying down.” Now, she is even able to walk to the store about four blocks from her home without having to stop. 

Thanks to Hackensack Meridian Health’s integrated network, Isabel and her family benefited from the convenience of consultations close to home before and after her procedure through the Cardiac Specialty Clinic at JFK, paired with seamless advanced cardiac care at Jersey Shore. “I’m very glad she had the treatment,” Francia says. “We were all hesitant, but we trusted Dr. Almendral. We trusted his word and that he wanted to take care of our mom. He makes it very personal, which is very comforting.”

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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.

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