Coordinated Action Saves Lives

March 15, 2019

It was a Sunday afternoon in June on Father’s Day, and Mark Pinelli, 63, felt ill and decided to lay down after lunch. All of a sudden, he collapsed at home in his bedroom. His daughters Nicole and Tina immediately began CPR and called 911. Mark went into cardiac arrest, so upon arrival to his home, first responder Andy O’Neil shocked his heart with a defibrillator before emergency personnel rushed him to the Cardiac Catheterization Lab at Jersey Shore University Medical Center. There, interventional cardiologist Peter Hynes, M.D., made a quick diagnosis of a 99% blocked left main cardiac artery — a potentially deadly situation.

“I’ve never had any cardiac issues before,” explains Mark. “In our house we eat right and exercise, so I never thought I would ever have a heart attack.”

Dr. Hynes stabilized Mark and immediately called cardiovascular surgeon Brook DeJene, M.D., who performed triple bypass surgery to restore blood flow to Mark’s heart. “My first priority was to put him on emergency bypass, which meant we had to get him intubated and get a balloon pump placed to keep him stable,” says Dr. DeJene.

Because Mark had been without blood flow to the brain after his collapse, Dr. DeJene also placed him in a medically induced coma so that they could begin therapeutic hypothermia. This unique therapy involves sedating the patient and carefully lowering body temperature to help reduce damage to the brain after loss of oxygen.

Mark had coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) surgery on June 18, 2017 and remained in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit for six days as he regained his strength. “We kept Mark in the ICU because we needed to closely monitor his progress,” says Dr. DeJene. “While we repaired his heart seamlessly, we had to ensure that we brought him back without any neurological deficits, such as speech, memory and coordination.”

Mark remained in the hospital for another week and began cardiac rehabilitation shortly after.

“While we have always been a close family, this has truly impacted my relationship with my daughters,” says Mark. “It made us appreciate each other so much more.” This has also made Mark more conscious about his health and the health of his daughters and wife. As a family, they didn’t always go to the doctor, but this has been a valuable learning experience about the importance of annual screenings.

“If I were to give advice to anyone, it would be to be conscious of your body and listen to any tell-tale signs that it’s trying to say,” he says. “I always thought I was in perfect health—I’m just glad the right people were there to care for me when I needed it the most,” he says.

“Mark definitely ended up in the right place,” shares Dr. DeJene. “Jersey Shore has one of the most advanced cardiac programs in the state. We were able to provide unique treatment options, such as therapeutic hypothermia and robotic CABG, so that Mark made it through a serious cardiac event with minimal damage.”

Today, Mark attends Jersey Shore’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Program. He suffered no brain damage and he’s back to work and activities like walking on the beach and spending time with his family.

To learn more about cardiac services available at Jersey Shore, visit HackensackMeridianHealth.org/JSHeart. For more information about cardiovascular services throughout Hackensack Meridian Health, visit HackensackMeridianHealth.org/Cardiovascular