Hackensack University Medical Center Holds a Heartfelt Reunion

March 5, 2019

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States.  To demonstrate the importance of cardiovascular health and to celebrate national heart month, the Heart and Vascular Hospital at Hackensack Meridian Health Hackensack University Medical Center recently held a reunion to honor patients and their clinical care teams.

“This first annual reunion for our cardiac patients truly validates the efforts being put forth over the last decade since the Heart and Vascular Hospital opened,” said Mark D. Sparta, FACHE, president and chief hospital executive of Hackensack University Medical Center and executive vice president of Population Health at Hackensack Meridian Health. “Our Heart and Vascular team uses innovative technologies to achieve successful outcomes for our patients.  This reunion allows us to complete the full circle of care. We saw so many of you at your worst and now we’re seeing you at your best, which is truly gratifying.”

The patients honored at the recent reunion were recipients of a percutaneous ventricular assist device (PVAD) called the Impella ® Heart pump.  It’s a small, catheter-based heart pump that gives short-term support for the heart. It’s typically used to give the heart time to recover and strengthen if a patient has heart failure as a result of heart surgery or a sudden cardiac event. The device is positioned outside the body and is connected to the heart typically through an artery in the groin. One benefit of the PVAD is that it’s inserted percutaneously or through the skin, and does not require invasive surgery or anesthesia. The procedure is typically performed in the cardiac catheterization lab.

“The Impella device is the world’s smallest heart pump,” said Mark Anderson, M.D., chief of the Division of Cardiac Surgery and cardiothoracic surgeon at the Heart and Vascular Hospital at Hackensack University Medical Center. “The Impella is a temporary support device which takes blood directly from the heart and pumps it into the body. It takes the workload off the heart and lets the heart rest and recover after an acute heart attack or cardiogenic shock.”

Dr. Anderson is a leading expert in minimally invasive heart surgery and mechanical assist devices. According to Dr. Anderson, 125 PVADs were implanted in patients at Hackensack University Medical Center in 2018. One of the patients who received the device was Carlos Azor of Lodi. One morning in February of 2018, Carlos was having difficulty breathing and sought treatment in the Emergency and Trauma Center at Hackensack University Medical Center. He was treated by Irfan Admani, M.D., FACC, a coronary interventionist at the Heart and Vascular Hospital.

“Mr. Azor came in as a case of cardiogenic shock,” recalls Dr. Admani. “He had low blood pressure and shortness of breath. The EKG showed significant ischemic changes and he was immediately taken to the cardiac catheterization laboratory for additional testing.”

“They took me to the Cath Lab and saw my ejection fraction was 10 percent, far below the 60 to 65 percent ejection fraction of a normal heart,” recalls Carlos. “The doctor said I needed surgery right away because I had four blockages and I could die. I was in total disbelief.”

Dr. Admani told Carlos he needed to have a quadruple bypass in order to save his life. Doctors determined Carlos was a candidate for a PVAD, which would support his heart before and after the surgery. That evening, the Impella was inserted through the femoral artery of Carlos’ groin into the heart’s main pumping chamber.

Once the device was in place, his blood pressure improved. Two days later, Carlos had quadruple bypass surgery to repair his heart. Several days after the surgery, the PVAD was removed when Carlos’s heart was strong enough to function without mechanical support.

“The Impella pump reduces the work necessary for the heart to pump,” explained Dr. Admani. “It gave Carlos’ heart a chance to rest and heal. Today, he’s functioning normally and is able to do anything he wants to do.”

The Impella device is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in cardiogenic shock, which is a life-threatening situation that occurs when the heart is unable to function, depriving critical organs of the blood they need to function properly.  

“We are one of the busiest centers in the country utilizing PVADs and the Impella pump, a truly revolutionary, lifesaving technology with numerous applications to improve patient outcomes,” said Joseph E. Parrillo, M.D., chair of the Heart and Vascular Hospital. “Asa recognized leader in cardiovascular clinical excellence and research and a center for management of cardiogenic shock, Hackensack University Medical Center has created a culture of innovation that embraces new technology, giving patients access to the safest and most advanced treatments on the market.”

Today, Carlos is doing well and says this experience has taught him so much.

“I couldn’t be more appreciative of the medical team at Hackensack University Medical Center,” said Carlos. “They were top notch. Thanks to the stellar care I received, I’m alive. And I can celebrate my 50th birthday this year.  I learned so much from this experience. If you have the slightest symptom, go get yourself checked out.”

About Hackensack Meridian Health Hackensack University Medical Center
Hackensack Meridian Health Hackensack University Medical Center, a 781-bed nonprofit teaching and research hospital located in Bergen County, NJ, is the largest provider of inpatient and outpatient services in the state. Founded in 1888 as the county’s first hospital, it is now part of the largest, most comprehensive and truly integrated health care network in New Jersey, offering a complete range of medical services, innovative research and life-enhancing care, which is comprised of 34,100 team members and more than 6,500 physicians. Hackensack University Medical Center was listed as one of the top two hospitals in New Jersey in U.S. News & World Report’s 2018-19 Best Hospital rankings. It was also named one of the top five New York Metro Area hospitals. Hackensack University Medical Center is one of only five major academic medical centers in the nation to receive Healthgrades America’s 50 Best Hospitals Award for five or more years in a row. Becker’s Hospital Review recognized Hackensack University Medical Center as one of the 100 Great Hospitals in America 2018. The medical center is one of the top 25 green hospitals in the country according to Practice Greenhealth, and received 25 Gold Seals of Approval™ by The Joint Commission – more than any other hospital in the country. It was the first hospital in New Jersey and second in the nation to become a Magnet® recognized hospital for nursing excellence; receiving its fifth consecutive designation in 2014. Hackensack University Medical Center has created an entire campus of award-winning care, including: the John Theurer Cancer Center; the Heart & Vascular Hospital; and the Sarkis and Siran Gabrellian Women’s and Children’s Pavilion, which houses the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital and Donna A. Sanzari Women’s Hospital, which was designed with The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center® and listed on the Green Guide’s list of Top 10 Green Hospitals in the U.S. Hackensack University Medical Center is the Hometown Hospital of the New York Giants and the New York Red Bulls and is Official Medical Services Provider to THE NORTHERN TRUST PGA Golf Tournament. It remains committed to its community through fundraising and community events especially the Tackle Kids Cancer Campaign providing much needed research at the Children’s Cancer Institute housed at the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital. To learn more, visit www.HackensackUMC.org.