Holy Name Medical Center - This Place is Different
Holy Name Medical Center - This Place is Different

Louis Sciarrino

"Holy Name saved my life – first from my heart attacks and then with the support I needed through physical therapy."

Louis marvels that he's here today. On the Saturday of his heart attack he was supposed to be home alone, but his wife, Michele, had been recently laid off from her job. Louis was relaxing on their couch when their beagle, Hailey, started barking, laying her head on Louis' chest, and crying. Louis hadn't been feeling great that morning, but somehow Hailey knew something was seriously wrong

When Louis stood up, he said he felt like someone "had punched a hole through his chest." He began sweating profusely and couldn't breathe. He looked at his wife's worried face and his whining dog and knew he needed to go to the hospital.

"They fixed me, inside and out."

Michele drove him straight to the entrance of Holy Name's Emergency Department. Louis had wanted to go with her to park the car, but she insisted that he go straight into the ED. That decision probably saved his life.

When he walked in and told the staff at the front desk he was having chest pains, they leapt into action. Doors flew open and two nurses, Denise and Gabrielle, took him into the back so a cardiac team could start treating him.

Within minutes, Louis had a massive heart attack. He saw all the color fade from the room, leaving everything black and white, like an old TV show. He remembered before losing consciousness that Denise jumped in to give him CPR, yelling that she wouldn't give up on him.

That was the first time Louis flatlined. He had a seizure and flatlined two more times, all that afternoon. Each time, the Holy Name cardiac team brought him back.

Throughout his ordeal, Louis' wife was in the room with him. The doctors and nurses allowed her to stay and he said seeing Michele made him fight even harder. He wasn't ready to leave her or his daughters.

He wasn't broken, he just needed some time and extra effort to heal.

Louis knows if his wife didn't lose her job or his dog didn't relentlessly cry, he would have died home alone. He admits he wouldn't have called an ambulance for himself. But he credits his survival to his nurses, Denise and Gabrielle, for never giving up on him, as well as Dr. Zankhana Raval, his cardiologist, who provided such successful cardiac treatment.

His health battle wasn't over with a good prognosis, however. Louis felt something he'd never felt before – broken. His body had failed him. He worried that he would never be able to go back to work or live a normal life. Yet he wanted to be strong and didn't share any of these fears with Michele, his daughters, or anyone else.

Once he started treatment at Holy Name's Cardiac Rehabilitation Center, however, Vijay, his cardiac rehab nurse, saw the cracks in his confidence. Vijay, a former ER nurse, is as kind and skilled as he is adept at sensing his clients' mental health. As he coached Louis through the physical exercises each week, he saw that Louis was struggling with something non-physical. Vijay took time to talk with Louis, reassuring him that he really could live a normal life with stents in his heart. He wasn't broken, he just needed some time and extra effort to heal.

Louis responded as well to Vijay's cardiac therapy treatment as he did the emotional support. But just as he was gaining his confidence back, the pandemic hit and Holy Name temporarily closed the Cardiac Rehabilitation Center. He worried that missing sessions would mean losing progress, and he would again fall back into that dark place of feeling broken.

Vijay didn't let that happen. He called Louis, partly to give him exercises to do at home, but mostly he just wanted to make sure Louis was okay. That follow-up care carried Louis over his last emotional hurdle.

"I felt really motivated to stick with the program, even at home," Louis said. "I didn't want to let Vijay down."

When the rehabilitation center reopened, Louis was back on the equipment, showing Vijay how hard he had been working at home. His dedication paid off – a year after his heart attack, Louis is back working as a chef, walking his dog and living his life.

"Holy Name saved my life – first from my heart attacks and then with the support I needed through cardiac therapy," Louis said. "They fixed me, inside and out."

Read More Patient Stories

Craig Mainor
Krissa Metarlo-Smith