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Raymond Morales

Raymond Morales

“I'm still amazed that I am alive. Dr. Worku saved my life. I’m thankful that he was at the hospital that day.”

Raymond Morales was taking a shower when he felt what he describes as “excruciating” pain in his chest. The Brooklyn father called out to his girlfriend, who was in the kitchen.

“She came into the bathroom, and she said, ‘You don't look right.’ I was trying to explain to her that my chest is killing me,” he recalls. His girlfriend, who is a nurse, immediately grabbed a bottle of aspirins in the hope of preventing Raymond from having a heart attack. When narrowed blood vessels of the heart burst, blood clots begin to form, blocking the flow of blood in the arteries. This causes a heart attack. Aspirin, which interferes with the clotting factors in the blood, slows the process of clotting.

As Raymond chewed the aspirin, his girlfriend dialed 9-1-1. When the ambulance arrived the paramedics planned to take him to the nearby county hospital, but Raymond wanted to go elsewhere, so they took him to NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital.

At the emergency department, doctors and nurses sprang into action to stop the pain and stabilize the patient. A nurse gave Raymond a nitroglycerin pill, which is used to treat and prevent chest pain. The pain was gone within minutes. But the pain soon returned. The medical team knew that was not normal.

Doctors determined Raymond had an aortic dissection — a condition in which the inner layer of the aorta tears. When the aorta tears, blood rushes through the hole causing the inner and middle layer of the aorta to separate.

Berhane Worku, MD, a cardiothoracic surgeon at NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, who overheard discussions about Raymond’s condition offered to surgically repair the tear. As Raymond prepared to go into surgery, he was overcome with fears that he might not survive and what may happen to his family.

“I have two daughters, but my oldest daughter passed away,” he says. “She was born with a bad heart and had a heart transplant at two years old. Her body rejected the heart at eight. I just kept thinking, ‘After they fixed me, will I pass away a couple of years from now? Will I be able to be here for my daughter?’”

He adds: “I heard [my daughter] broke down when she was at the hospital; she didn't think — nobody thought — I was going to make it through. But they worked on me for seven hours, and I came through.”

After the surgery, Raymond was taken to recovery and began the long road to recovery. “I never used to depend on anybody for anything. It was difficult for me because I wasn't able to lift certain things. I needed help to drink, eat, and bathe myself,” he recalls.  Raymond was soon back to a new normal. During his recovery, he changed the way he ate and worked on reducing stressors in his life. And he has brought his blood pressure down to a manageable level.

“I'm still amazed that I am alive. Dr. Worku saved my life. I’m thankful that he was at the hospital that day. I just want to thank everybody for helping me out, making me be here to live another day and be with my friends and family. I'm just happy to be here,” he exclaims.