Everyone felt like they were in the loop when Dr. Avgerinos came out [of surgery]. So it made me feel like he was engaged and that he cared, and he made me feel like I wanted to get better to show him that he did a great job.
January 27 was a typical Saturday for Elias Miro. The 48-year-old chef spent much of the morning running errands before taking a nap around midday. When he awoke three hours later, something was wrong.
I felt a little discomfort in my chest and my left arm. There was a pain in my left arm, and that was weird,” Elias recalls. “I said, ‘Oh, maybe I slept on my arm wrong or something.’ But it wasn't going away.”
For Elias the solution was simple — he’d sleep off whatever was causing the pain. But his girlfriend, Liz, had another idea.
“She was like, ‘You're not going back to bed if you're not feeling well. That's weird of you. That's weird.’ She called a friend of ours in the building who is a medical assistant. And he took my blood pressure and said it was a little elevated, little concerning,” he says. Liz told Elias to take aspirin, which helps prevent heart attacks by stopping the formation of clots that block blood flow to the heart and insisted he go to the nearest emergency department for further treatment.
But Elias didn’t want to go because he says he didn’t want to spend his Saturday night at the ER. After much cajoling from Liz and threats of ending their almost four-year-long relationship, Elias finally conceded. Liz drove him to the emergency department at NewYork-Presbyterian Queens.
At the emergency room, he was immediately triaged and sent for an electrocardiogram (EKG).
“The doctor said it was a very concerning EKG. They told me, ‘We think you're having a heart attack right now,’” he says. Elias was rushed to the catheterization lab, where the on-call cardiologist planned to insert a stent, a small wire mesh tube, into the arteries of the heart. This stent would keep the arteries propped open, allow blood to flow to the heart.
“After about 30 min, he was in the cath lab, where the interventional cardiologist injected a dye in his arteries and took some x-rays of his heart. It was found that the main artery was blocked and had caused an extensive heart attack,” says Dr. Dimitrios V. Avgerinos, assistant professor of cardiothoracic surgery at Weill Cornell Medicine and a cardiothoracic surgeon at NewYork-Presbyterian Queens. “Multiple attempts were made to insert a stent. However, they were unsuccessful due to the extensive deposition of calcium inside the artery.”
Unable to insert the stent, the cardiologist called in Dr. Avgerinos to perform an emergency bypass surgery. With heart bypass surgery or coronary artery bypass surgery, blood vessels from another part of the body are used to repair the damaged arteries in the heart. To keep Elias’s heart beating throughout the surgery, a balloon pump — a mechanical device that increases myocardial oxygen perfusion while at the same time increasing cardiac output — was placed in his chest.
“I woke up Sunday in a hospital room, and I could just see my family was in front of me,” Elias remembers. After three days of recovery in the hospital, Elias was discharged and started to recover at home. Over six weeks, Elias began transforming his way of life with a focus on longevity.
He says: “I have a nephew and I’m like an important male-figure in his life teaching him how to be a NewYorker! Throughout this, I was thinking about him and my girlfriend. I want to be around another 50 years. I don’t want to miss out.”
In the months since the heart attack, Elias has also stopped smoking and drinking socially and exercises more. He also listens to Liz more.
“Whenever I argue with my girlfriend now, she just says ‘Aspirin,’ which is her way of saying ‘shut up, listen to me.’ Because she gave me an aspirin and it helped thin my blood, which the doctor told her was a great idea. So she just shuts me up with aspirin. I'm like, ‘Okay. I owe you that. You can have this one again.’”
Elias returned to work by March. He sees a cardiologist quarterly. He says he’s back to his old self, thanks to the lifesaving treatment Dr. Avgerinos performed.
“My surgeon was amazing. He was always so professional and made me feel at ease. His bedside manner is what they should teach in medical school,” he says. “He was also that way with my girlfriend and my family. Everyone felt like they were in the loop when he came out and let them know what was going on. And whenever I reached out to his office for any questions, I got an immediate answer. So it made me feel like he was engaged and that he cared, and he made me feel like I wanted to get better to show him that he did a great job.”