What happened to me was a very difficult thing. I believe it happened at the right time, and I came to the right place.
Jorge Vicente Lopez thought he came down with the flu. But after a week, the baker from Woodside noticed the symptoms were getting much worse.
“I was starting to get really tired, and it was getting really hard for me to work, so I decided to go to the emergency room,” he recalls. He went to the emergency department at NewYork-Presbyterian Queens.
In the emergency room, doctors quickly discovered that he had two major problems with his heart, and his life was in serious danger. Jorge had a unique case of aortic coarctation (narrowing of his aorta), a condition usually recognized at birth that had gone undiagnosed till now. He also had defective aortic and mitral valves in his heart.
Jorge was in heart failure.
“When they told me I would need open-heart surgery, and I had a condition all this time that I didn’t know about, I couldn’t believe it,” he says.
Dr. Rajeev Dayal, Director of Vascular Surgery at NewYork-Presbyterian Queens, and Dr. Dimitrios Avgerinos, an attending cardiothoracic surgeon at NewYork-Presbyterian Queens were called in to address Jorge’s case.
“Jorge was in very bad shape,” says Dr. Avgerinos. “His heart function was very poor and weak. At the same time we saw that his aorta was very stenosed. We usually see this condition in young babies.”
“Most people wouldn’t have survived to this age with this many problems,” Dr. Dayal adds.
Together with a multidisciplinary team of cardiologists and cardiovascular surgeons, they began planning a first of its kind procedure staged to address his condition in two phases.
First, Dr. Dayal and Dr. Avgerinos would perform a thoracic endovascular aortic repair (TEVAR) to address the aortic coarctation. TEVAR is a minimally invasive surgical procedure to insert a device called a stent graft, a metal tube covered in fabric, which would open up and reinforce Jorge’s aorta. Two weeks later, Dr. Avgerinos would perform heart valve replacement surgery to replace both his mitral and aortic valves.
"They saved my life," Jorge says. "What happened to me was a very difficult thing. I believe it happened at the right time, and I came to the right place."
His doctors agreed that his recovery was nothing short of remarkable.
“A case like Jorge’s needs a tertiary center like our hospital where they have all the specialties available. Jorge’s condition wasn’t rare, it was unique — meaning that according to our knowledge this is the first time such a staged procedure took place in order to fix the coarctation and the double valve replacement,” Dr. Avgerinos says.