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Open Heart Surgery Saves Vibrant 81-Year-Old

For years, Victoria and Richard have traveled from Brooklyn to spend their winters in South Florida, a place they consider a beautiful vacation paradise. This year, it became the place a miracle happened – at Memorial Regional Hospital.

Victoria, 81, and Richard, 82, were enjoying another winter getaway filled with walks on the beach, shopping, bingo, fishing, sightseeing and dining out with friends. As in years past, they were having fun, staying busy and on the go, but more and more, Victoria was finding herself short of breath. Late one night she awoke unable to breathe. Richard called 911 and the two were quickly on their way to Memorial Regional Hospital.

"Her heart stopped in the ambulance," says Richard.

"I was dead in the ambulance," Victoria adds. "They gave me oxygen and injections – they looked frantic."

Diagnosed with severe aortic stenosis, coronary artery disease and heart disease, Victoria was admitted to Memorial Regional Hospital's Intensive Care Unit.

With Victoria on life support, their children and grandchildren arrived from across the country to offer family support and consult with physicians. The prospect of open heart surgery was daunting, but the only alternative was giving up and taking Victoria off life support.

"As we tried to do the best for our mother while also adhering to her healthcare directive, we prayed for a miracle," family members wrote in a letter of appreciation. "It came in the form of cardiologists Juan Pastor-Cervantes, MD, and Howard Berlin, MD, who produced the second opinion that Mom would make it through open heart surgery."

The physicians looked past Victoria's age and said they believed the strength of her heart and her otherwise excellent condition made surgery a viable option. The family agreed and gave the go-ahead. The surgical team performed an aortic valve replacement and single bypass with amazing results.

"Slowly but surely, she came back," Richard says.

New Lease on Life

Less than two weeks after surgery, Victoria was already strong enough to leave the hospital. She spent the next four weeks at Memorial Manor, where she continued her recovery and therapy.

They entire family was impressed by the high-quality medical care provided with warmth and kindness by the professionals at both Memorial facilities.

"When this happened, we wanted to get back to our doctors and hospitals in New York, but after all this, we realize it was a blessing to be here," Richard says. "She got another lease on life, at least another 10 years."

"Whatever it is, I'll take it," Victoria chimes in. "We don't feel 81 and 82."

Happily, there will be more walks on the beach, visits with family and winters in South Florida for Victoria and Richard – and they're taking none of it for granted.

"She's only here because of Memorial Regional Hospital," Richard says as he sits holding his wife's hand. "It's a miracle. If you don't believe in them, she's living proof right there."


Is Your Doctor a Memorial Doctor?
To find a physician who is committed to South Florida healthcare services, call Memorial Physician Referral Service toll-free at (800) 944-DOCS. We're available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.