Late Diagnosis of Heart Failure Leads One Family To Cleveland Clinic

Nearly 5 million Americans are affected by heart failure. For people over age 65, it is the number one reason for hospitalization.

Congestive heart failure (CHF) can be a scary diagnosis. It means that the heart does not pump as well as it should to provide oxygen-rich blood to the body. This chronic, long-term disease can be managed through medication, life style changes, and in some cases, surgery.

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Recently, the daughter of a CHF patient of Dr. Randall Starling’s wrote to The Beating Edge to share her mother’s story. A special treatment provided by Dr. Starling in the Heart Failure ICU allowed her mom to live many more years.

Dr. Starling used hemodynamic monitoring and optimization of medications to stabilize her mom. This was done with a Swan Ganz catheter—a thin tube into the heart and the arteries leading to the lungs, which monitor the heart’s function and blood flow.

Valerie Citino wrote TBE with this story about her mom, Mary Calabrese (here is an excerpt).

It all started at my daughter’s wedding where my mom and dad were dancing gracefully across the floor. All of a sudden, she could not catch her breath. Immediately, I was on the dance floor with my sisters and brother trying to get her to calm down by taking slow breaths, but it was not working.

We immediately took her to the emergency room. It wasn’t long before a procedure was done to remove a gallon of water from her chest. She was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and prescribed medication.

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Things were not getting better quickly enough for this strong-willed family so a friend from Cleveland Clinic suggested we go to the place people go from all over the world for heart care. So we did. 

After some different procedures and a lot of prayers, Dr. Bruce Wilkoff and other electrophysiologists at Cleveland Clinic helped our family to find Dr. Starling who miraculously gave her 10 more years of life.

I could go on with so many heart-wrenching and happy moments but that would take a book. Last year, another Swan-Ganz catheterization was considered but she was much more frail than 10 years ago. My mom’s life came to an end on Nov. 5, 2011.

I was very fortunate that I was able to take leave from my job and be there for my mom for the last six months of her life. My family and I are forever grateful for the care my mom received from Dr. Starling and Cleveland Clinic.

Thank you, Valerie, for writing in and sharing your mom’s story.

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Pictured (left to right): Donna Prevesk, Robert Calabrese, Valerie Citino and Angela Ianiro with their mother Mary Calabrese


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