Lifesaving Cardiac Care

January 14, 2019

Eatontown mayor was quick to seek emergency care for his chest pain.

As Mayor of Eatontown, and a former police officer, Dennis Connelly, 55, is no stranger to stress. But years of intense work plus diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and a history of heart disease put him at risk for a heart attack.

When he recently experienced severe chest pain and numbness in his arms, he immediately dialed 911. “I didn’t know for sure if it was a heart attack, but I would rather be wrong than sorry,” Dennis recalls.


Paramedics rushed Dennis to the Mary V. Black Emergency Pavilion at Jersey Shore University Medical Center. After evaluation, the cardiac team stabilized Dennis’ condition with medication and called on Michael Wappel, M.D., an interventional cardiologist with Jersey Shore who had treated Dennis 13 years earlier and has served as his cardiologist ever since.

“I learned that I did have a heart attack but was so thankful to be in good hands,” Dennis says. “I trusted Dr. Wappel completely.”


Dennis first met Dr. Wappel more than a decade ago when he sought help for mild chest pain that wouldn’t go away. After identifying two blocked coronary arteries, Dr. Wappel performed an interventional procedure to open the arteries with stents. Since then, Dr. Wappel has seen Dennis every six months to make sure his coronary arteries remain open.

“Dennis was fortunate to seek help before anything serious happened. For the past 13 years, he’s been doing well. But with heart disease, things can change quickly,” explains Dr. Wappel. “Plaque in the arteries can become unstable and rupture without notice, causing a heart attack.”

Thankfully, when the heart attack struck, Dr. Wappel already knew Dennis’ situation well and quickly scheduled him for a cardiac catheterization at Jersey Shore. Although Dennis’ two previously stented coronary arteries were clear, he had new blockages in two other coronary arteries, which Dr. Wappel was able to open with stents. The next day, Dennis was able to go home.


Today, Dennis is focused on caring for himself. He’s attending cardiac rehabilitation and working on eating better, losing weight, managing his stress and staying on top of his health issues.

“Before my heart attack, I was dealing with mild symptoms, like fatigue and breathlessness that I didn’t even realize were heart related. Since treatment, I feel so much better,” says Dennis. “I couldn’t be more thankful for my excellent care.”

Learn more about the cardiovascular services available at Jersey Shore University Medical Center and Hackensack Meridian Health.