Heart problems never ran in Pat M.’s family. So, when he started feeling tired after a round of golf seven years ago, he didn’t think much of it. But when he became short of breath and felt his heart beating fast the next day, he and his wife, Ula, grew concerned. They went to the Emergency Department at Overlook Medical Center.
As it turned out, a pneumonia-like virus had left Pat with an unpleasant surprise: congestive heart failure (CHF), a condition that causes the heart to weaken over time. “I was devastated,” Ula remembers thinking. “But Pat took his medicine religiously and was feeling good for a while.”
For the better part of three years, those medications — along with care from advanced heart failure cardiologist Abhishek Singh, PhD, MD, and the team at the Atlantic Health System Heart Success Program — kept Pat’s CHF in check. But then his heart started to weaken. By the summer of 2021, when Pat and Ula traveled to their beach home in Seabright, “Pat couldn’t even walk to the beach,” Ula says. “He mostly slept.”
Dr. Singh prescribed Pat an intravenous medication that “makes the heart squeeze harder and relaxes the blood vessels to let blood flow more easily through the body,” he says. But Pat’s symptoms continued to worsen. Finally, on November 11, 2021, Pat, 63, of Rutherford, was admitted to Morristown Medical Center.
His ejection fraction, a measurement of the amount of blood the left ventricle pumps from the heart with each squeeze, had fallen to 15%. “Pat was presented with two excellent life sustaining options, a left ventricular assist device [a type of mechanical heart pump], or heart transplant,” Dr. Singh says. “He was very clear, he only wanted heart transplant.”
On November 13, while still at Morristown Medical Center, Pat and Ula met with the medical and surgical director of the Heart Transplant Program at NYU Langone Health, Alex Reyentovich, MD and Nader Moazami, MD. They explained to Pat that, thanks to a partnership between Atlantic Health System and NYU Langone, Pat could receive potentially lifesaving heart transplant surgery at NYU Langone’s nationally recognized Transplant Institute in Manhattan and still receive follow-up care locally in New Jersey at Morristown Medical Center’s Gagnon Cardiovascular Institute.
“They came in, introduced us to the whole idea of transplant and told us what would happen next,” Pat says. “The whole process was fabulous—both hospitals and every doctor I saw.”
On November 14, an ambulance transported Pat from Morristown Medical Center to NYU Langone. As soon as he arrived, his care team began searching for a donor heart. “Traditionally, finding a heart for someone with type 0 blood is challenging,” Dr. Reyentovich says.
But NYU Langone is unique in its ability to find donor hearts faster. “We don’t turn down a heart unless we’re absolutely sure someone can’t benefit from it,” Dr. Reyentovich says.
On Christmas Eve 2021, after spending roughly 45 days on the transplant list, Pat got the best gift of all: His doctors had found the right match. “When they walked into my room, I got teary eyed,” Pat says. Dr. Moazami performed Pat’s transplant surgery the next day.
Through it all, Pat and Ula felt supported by teams at both hospitals. “I never saw such an attentive group of people,” Ula says. “They pay attention to such details. They didn’t leave us alone with our fears for a second. We felt like they would do anything in their power for us to be successful.”
Seven weeks after his operation, Pat was quickly regaining his strength. He’s able to climb the stairs of his house and walk a quarter mile on most days. And he has big plans for this summer. “I want to play golf and walk on the beach,” he says. “I want my life back.”
After receiving his initial follow-up care at NYU Langone, Pat is back under the local care of the Heart Success Program at Morristown Medical Center. “They’re a great team, and my advanced practice nurse at Morristown, Emily O’Keefe, is unbelievable,” Pat says. “We connected right away.”
“Pat is such a nice man, and they have a wonderful family, it’s been a privilege to work with them and help them,” Dr. Singh says. “It takes a true team approach to create such great outcomes and working with Dr. Reyentovich and his team at NYU Langone makes it very easy.”
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