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Valerie and rescue team

Less than a month after Valerie Meritz’s heart stopped three times, Valerie, 65, and her family were reunited with first responders and health care workers from two Catholic Health hospitals who saved her life.

For Valerie, January 17 is a blur. She doesn’t remember much right before her husband of 40 years, Martin Saccente, made a lifesaving call to 911 because she was experiencing chest pains.

The Nassau County Police Emergency Ambulance Bureau arrived within minutes to Valerie’s Massapequa home and while en route to Catholic Health’s St. Joseph Hospital, Valerie’s heart stopped twice. Police Medic DeHaan performed advance support interventions in the ambulance, which restarted her heart.

When Valerie arrived at St. Joseph Hospital, she was alert and engaged with the hospital’s Emergency Department Associate Director Joseph Chirayil, MD. However, during their exchange, Valerie’s heart stopped again, and Dr. Chirayil and a team of nurses and technicians sprang into action, bringing Valerie back once again.

Once stable, Valerie was transferred to Catholic Health’s St. Francis Hospital & Heart Center® via Hunter Ambulance. There she was treated by St. Francis Heart Center cardiologist Sidharth Yadav, DO and a team of nurses. The team added a balloon angioplasty, which took care of a blockage caused by her history of AFib. This procedure reestablished the blood flow to her heart.

Within a week of her cardiac emergency, Valerie was back on her feet, her appetite had returned, and she was reunited with her love, Martin. Today, Valerie and Martin are thankful for the teams that gave them the best early Valentine’s Day present: the gift of more time with each other!  

“Events like this usually happen in a movie and you never think it’s going to happen to you or someone in your family. But it did happen to us and we are so thankful to have trained professionals working together to achieve a successful outcome,” said Martin Saccente.

According to the American Heart Association a strong Chain of Survival can improve chances of survival and recovery for victims of cardiac arrest. The first Chain of Survival initiative is to activate emergency medical services (EMS.) Martin’s quick thinking was a crucial component in saving Valerie when time was of the essence.

February is Heart Health Month and it’s a vital reminder about why you should keep up with heart-healthy practices and also how crucial it is to follow the Chain of Survival commands for survival.  

Catholic Health offers nationally recognized heart and vascular care programs at St. Francis Heart Center. Now available at more locations, St. Francis Heart Center gives the community access to comprehensive cardiac care—from preventive care to cardiac surgery—no matter where one lives on Long Island. The St. Francis Heart Center has already expanded its nationally recognized cardiovascular expertise to Good Samaritan University Hospital in West Islip, Mercy Hospital in Rockville Centre and coming soon to St. Joseph Hospital in Bethpage.

“Valerie’s excellent outcome is a testament to the teamwork between the medics and the Catholic Health medical staff, as well as the expeditious transfer process between St. Joseph and St. Francis Hospitals. We are happy to see that Valerie is doing well and we wish her the best of luck,” said Dr. Yadav.

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