The Healthiest Man in the ICU

November 29, 2018

Thorough cardiac diagnosis and treatment saves a Hoboken man from an unexpected condition.

To most everyone, Thomas Redmond, 67, was the picture of health. The vegetarian exercised five days a week; didn’t drink, smoke or use drugs; and regularly practiced meditation. Thomas had no family history of heart problems, and his blood pressure and cholesterol numbers were the envy of most people his age. That’s why he was shocked to learn he had a life-threatening cardiovascular condition. “Having a serious health condition was the furthest thing from my mind. I was otherwise in exceptional health,” recalls Thomas. “I’m so thankful we caught the problem when we did. I never would have known.”

AN UNEXPECTED DIAGNOSIS

Yaron Baraket, M.D., a cardiologist with Palisades Medical Center, diagnosed Thomas with an aortic aneurysm and bicuspid aortic valve. Dr. Baraket made the discovery during an ultrasound screening of Thomas’ heart for an unrelated condition Thomas had known about for decades. The condition, called supraventricular tachycardia (SVT), caused his heart to race occasionally but was not considered dangerous. Because Dr. Baraket examined Thomas’ entire cardiovascular system — not just his heart — he picked up on the unrelated but very serious aneurysm. “This incidental finding speaks to the complete, thorough examination. We always look at the entire picture,” explains Dr. Baraket.

An aortic aneurysm is a weakness or bulging in the wall of the aorta — the largest blood vessel in the body. If the vessel wall gets too weak, it could leak or burst, potentially causing sudden death. Thomas had a defect of the connective tissue that can make the tissue stretch more easily, making him more prone to aneurysm. In addition, having a bicuspid valve — a valve with only two leaflets instead of three — is linked to aneurysm because the flow of blood through the valve can be more turbulent. “Both Thomas’ aortic aneurysm and bicuspid valve were congenital — he was born with them. Nothing Thomas did could have caused or prevented them,” explains Dr. Baraket.

EXPERT COORDINATION, TREATMENT

Dr. Baraket recommended close monitoring of Thomas’ aortic aneurysm because it was still fairly small. But because Thomas felt so healthy, he didn’t make additional appointments. It wasn’t until an application for life insurance required Thomas to get the issue checked again that he returned for additional imaging. “The tests showed that my aneurysm had grown significantly in a short amount of time — a red flag that it could rupture,” says Thomas. “Dr. Baraket referred me to a surgeon right away. This time I didn’t hesitate.” Thomas was referred to George Batsides, M.D., a cardiothoracic surgeon and chief of Cardiac Surgery at Hackensack University Medical Center. After an examination, Dr. Batsides recommended surgery to repair Thomas’ aneurysm and replace the faulty valve. The complex operation, which required Thomas to be put on a heart-lung machine, was scheduled for the very next week.“At Hackensack, we specialize in complex issues of the aorta. We have intimate knowledge of the operation and understand the art of when it’s time to treat patients. We routinely perform these surgeries with world-class outcomes,” explains Dr. Batsides. During the five-hour surgery, Dr. Batsides removed the diseased area of Thomas’ aorta and replaced it with a synthetic tube called a Dacron graft. He then removed Thomas’ bicuspid valve and carefully sewed in a prosthetic valve.

LIVING LIFE

The complex surgery was a success. And after eight days in Intensive Care, Thomas went home. Just two months after the operation, Thomas began cardiac rehab at Palisades to build his strength and endurance. And he supplemented rehab with working out on his own. “I’ve always said I was the healthiest guy in the Intensive Care Unit,” says Thomas. “It just goes to show you that anything can happen, and it’s important to be ready for it. I’m just so thankful for the exceptional care I received — from diagnosis and surgery through rehabilitation. My team was absolutely top-notch.”