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Moments That Matter: Gina's Story

Gina W. of Lodi, NJ, didn’t fit the profile of her condition. In her mid-30’s, she went from specialist to specialist and was treated for problems such as asthma and pneumonia. Nothing helped. Her symptoms worsened.

“I was scared and confused why no one had an answer,” Gina says. One winter day when she was barely able to breathe, Gina’s family doctor, Navpreet Minhas, MD, sent her directly to the Emergency Department at Chilton Medical Center.

“They diagnosed me within four hours,” Gina says. That diagnosis, however, was discomforting; Gina, then 36, had congestive heart failure (CHF) .

She knew about heart disease from the patients she saw as an EMT and from her father, who died of it at age 45. “I thought I was going to die in a matter of days,” Gina says, recalling her fear.

Gina’s cardiac care was coordinated by Martin Tabaksblat MD, Lawrence
Blitz, MD
and Michele Gilbert, APN, a nurse practitioner with the Heart Success program at Chilton.

Dr. Tabaksblat diagnosed Gina and prescribed medications meant to control her symptoms. At the same time, Heart Success provided education and support.

However, “despite the best medical care,” says Dr. Tabaksblat, “Gina remained quite symptomatic.”

I can walk again. Breathe again.

Gina W., Cardiac patient

A Lifesaving Device

To help monitor her condition, Dr. Blitz implanted a CardioMEMS device. “CardioMEMS” Dr. Blitz explains, “is a small electronic device placed in an artery in the lungs. It allows real-time monitoring of the pressures in both heart and lungs.”

CardioMEMS have been shown to keep patients with advanced heart failure out of the hospital because of the speed with which changes in their condition can be acted upon.

Michele Gilbert, Gina’s nurse practitioner, stayed in frequent contact and monitored the cardiomems. That Gina needed more than medication  quickly became apparent; she needed to be considered for a transplant. But that wait can be long – sometimes a year or more.

To give her that time, Gina needed a left ventricular assist device (LVAD). Attached directly to her heart, it would do the pumping that her damaged heart could not.

A Second Chance at Life

Gina was referred from Chilton to Morristown Medical Center; because both are part of Atlantic Health System, receiving the best medical care either hospital can offer is a seamless transition.

Now under the expert care of Drs. Marc Goldschmidt and James Slater and Linda Suplicki, RN, MSN, APN, ACNP, CCRN, coordinator of the LVAD program, Gina received the LVAD on October 30, 2018.

“I can walk again. Breathe again,” says Gina, who feels she’s gotten a second chance at life. “Everything, from simple daily activities to my social life, isn’t such a struggle.

“All of my friends, family, and medical team encouraged me and supported me at every step,” she says. “They helped make the hardest decisions a little bit easier and a little less scary.”

Today, Gina is back to work – at her new job at Atlantic Health System. She is grateful to her medical team for giving her this second chance at life, as she waits for a heart transplant.