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Stony Brook University Heart Institute

Dennis Dillon, left, thanks the people who helped him survive a near-fatal heart attack last year. Photo by David Luces

“The kindness and compassion in these people’s heart is why I’m here [today],” Dennis Dillon, 62, said of the group of good Samaritans who he said rushed to his aid after he went into cardiac arrest during a boating trip at Port Jefferson Harbor Aug. 31 over Labor Day weekend. 

The Mount Sinai native, along with his family, reunited Feb. 8 with the rescuers for the first time since the incident. The 10 individuals were presented with the Stony Brook University Heart Institute’s Heart Saver Community Award. 

Mount Sinai native Dennis Dillon stands alongside the good Samaritans and doctors who saved his life a year ago. Photo by David Luces

After Dillon returned from a swim, he went into cardiac arrest after experiencing back and arm pain as well as nausea. His wife, Tricia, immediately began CPR and within minutes good Samaritans began assisting with CPR and sent up a flare to ensure that an ambulance would be standing by. Dillon’s heart was then shocked twice by an AED (defibrillator) and was brought back to shore where he was taken to the heart institute. 

Doctors said the father of three had a 100 percent blockage of the left anterior descending coronary artery, a key artery known as LAD that moves blood to the heart. The condition is dangerous because of its low survival rate, and is often referred to as “the widowmaker.”

“Out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, which Mr. Dillon suffered from, is associated with a 5 to 9 percent survival rate,” said Dr. Puja Parikh, interventional cardiologist and co-director of the Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement Program at the heart institute. “It is a true
testament to the bystanders that were present that day, the measures they took before he [Dillon] came to the hospital definitely helped.”

Dillon’s treatment included a drug-eluting stent to his LAD, a tiny metal tube coated with a medication to clear the artery and keep it clear, and tracheal intubation to ensure an open and unobstructed airway. His body temperature was lowered when brought to the coronary care unit, to allow time for his brain and body to heal. Prior to discharge, the catherization team implanted a small internal cardioverter defibrillator in order to avert another cardiac crisis. After 11 days, the Mount Sinai native was released Sept. 11. 

According to the heart institute, a heart attack victim’s chances of survival goes down by about 10 percent for every minute that CPR is not initiated. 

Officials from the institute reiterated that anyone can use an AED if need be. Pictures on the device gives individuals a visual guide on where to put the pads. It also talks to you and won’t go to the next step until the previous task is completed. 

The Dillon family said they planned on buying an AED for their boat in case they ever find another person in a similar situation who needs aid. “I will never be able to repay any of these people, but I can pay it forward by trying to help someone else,” Dennis said.

Doctors will be hosting community events throughout what is American Heart Month. On Feb. 26 from 9 to 10 a.m. Brittany Kickel, chest pain center coordinator, will host Avoiding Common Heart Health Mistakes at the Smith Haven Mall food court. For more information, visit heart.stonybrookmedicine.edu. 

By Joanna Chikwe, M.D.

February means heart health awareness, but taking care of your heart requires a year-round commitment that has lifelong benefits. What will you do differently to take better care of your heart?

Dr. Joanna Chickwe

Heart disease can affect anyone, regardless of gender, age or background. That’s why all of our cardiac care experts at Stony Brook University Heart Institute remain focused on how to best prevent heart disease and heal the heart. 

When you come to Stony Brook Heart Institute, you can depend on quality and expertise for every aspect of your cardiac care — care that exceeds national outcomes. A few examples:

• Our renowned team of interventional cardiologists have long been on the forefront for treating acute myocardial infarction, or heart attack. In fact, we exceed national outcomes and have the best outcomes on Long Island when it comes to bringing lifesaving heart emergency care to heart attack victims, as reported on the Hospital Compare* website. 

• Our heart surgeons have a high degree of expertise in providing advanced approaches to coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) — a surgical procedure that uses blood vessels from other areas of your body to restore blood flow to your heart. Our Heart Institute has received a three-star rating — the highest awarded — from The Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS) for overall patient care and outcomes in isolated CABG surgery. This distinguished award is in recognition of the isolated CABG procedures we performed from January to December 2017. The STS ratings are regarded as the definitive national reporting system for cardiac surgery. 

• For patients with severe aortic stenosis (narrowing), Stony Brook is a leader in advancing the transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) procedure and is one of a select number of sites in the U.S. to offer this minimally invasive procedure for patients who are considered high, intermediate or low-risk for open surgery. Stony Brook has excellent long-term data on patient outcomes with TAVR, and we are a tertiary referral center for evaluation of aortic valve disease.

• And, for patients with heart failure, a condition where the heart can’t pump enough blood to meet the needs of the body, our world-renowned experts at the Heart Failure and Cardiomyopathy Center help patients to restore their quality of life, limit their symptoms and understand their disease. We are proud that our patient outcomes for survival with heart failure are the best on Long Island and among the best nationally, according to Hospital Compare. 

While we hope that you and your family never need acute cardiac services, you can be assured knowing that Long Island’s only Chest Pain Center with Primary PCI and Resuscitation is right in your community. 

And, if you suspect a heart attack, please remember it’s best to call 911. Ambulances are equipped with defibrillators and most are equipped with 12-lead EKGs (electrocardiograms), which means they can transmit results to the hospital while en route. At Stony Brook, we assemble the treatment team and equipment you need before you arrive.

Want to do something today to learn about your heart health? Take a free heart health risk assessment at www.stonybrookmedicine.edu/hearthealth. Seeking a solution to a cardiac problem? Call us at 631-44-HEART (444-3278). We’re ready to help.

*Hospital Compare is a consumer-oriented national website that provides information on how well hospitals provide recommended care to their patients managed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Dr. Joanna Chikwe is the director of the Stony Brook University Heart Institute, chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery and the T.F. Cheng Endowed Professor of Surgery.

By Joanna Chickwe, MD

Dr. Joanna Chickwe

February means heart health awareness, but taking care of your heart requires a year-round commitment that has lifelong benefits. What will you do differently to take better care of your heart?

Heart disease can affect anyone, regardless of gender, age or background. That’s why all of our cardiac care experts at Stony Brook University Heart Institute remain focused on how to best prevent heart disease and heal the heart.

We fight cardiovascular disease from every angle, using the best that cardiovascular medicine can offer: risk factor prevention; state-of-the-art diagnostics, such as 3-D cardiovascular imaging; advanced minimally invasive interventions, including mitral valve repair using a patient’s own valve tissue versus an artificial heart valve; and advanced lifesaving technology, including ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) that gives new hope to people with a serious heart or lung failure.

In the hands of our highly trained heart specialists, these and other important new state-of-the-art therapies are changing cardiac care and lives:

• Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) for patients with inoperable aortic stenosis (failing heart valves)

• MitraClip, a less invasive treatment option for mitral regurgitation (caused by a leaky mitral valve), for patients who are not candidates for open-heart surgery

• The HeartMate 3 left ventricular assist device (LVAD) for patients with advanced heart failure

• Watchman to provide lifelong protection against stroke in appropriate patients for heart rhythm disorders

• Impella, the world’s smallest heart pump, making procedures safer for high-risk individuals

And while we hope that you and your family never need our acute cardiac services, you can be assured knowing that Long Island’s only accredited Chest Pain Center is right in your community. As one of only nine Chest Pain Centers statewide, Stony Brook Heart Institute is a leader in saving the lives of heart attack victims.

Since “time is muscle” when it comes to treating heart attacks, it is critical to treat patients as fast as possible, so less muscle is damaged. Stony Brook has achieved a “door-to-balloon” time, spanning the arrival at the hospital until the blockage is cleared, of 55 minutes — much better than the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association guidelines to open the blockage in 90 minutes or less.

And, if you suspect a heart attack, it’s best to call 911. Ambulances are equipped with defibrillators and most are equipped with 12-lead EKGs (electrocardiograms), which means they can transmit results to the hospital while en route. At Stony Brook, we assemble the treatment team and equipment you need before you arrive.

Have a question about heart disease prevention? Seeking a solution to a cardiac problem? Call us at 631-44-HEART (444-3278). We’re ready to help.

Joanna Chikwe is the director of Stony Brook University Heart Institute; chief, Cardiothoracic Surgery; and T.F. Cheng professor of cardiothoracic surgery.