Heart and Vascular Institute Patient Stories

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Every day, our heart and vascular health care team makes a difference in the lives of our patients. From providing routine testing to guiding complex heart surgeries, we're there every step of the way to support patients in their recovery.

Here's how that care has had a positive impact in the lives of some of our patients.

Note: These patients' treatment and results may not be representative of all similar cases.​

Heart Disease Patient Stories

​Annette Amendola: Coronary Microvascular Dysfunction

Annette Amendola - Coronary Microvascular Dysfunction Patient Story

Annette received the right diagnosis and treatment at UPMC, allowing her to attend her daughter’s wedding.

Read Annette Amendola's story

Tabby Baer: Cardiac Arrest Prevention

HVI patient Tabby Baer | Cardiac Arrest Treatment Patient

Tabby Baer has a family history of cardiac arrest and wanted to learn more about her own risk

Read Tabby Baer's story

Jim Julian: Triple Bypass Surgery

Jim Julian

Jim Julian's blocked arteries and cardiac arrest led him to triple bypass surgery at UPMC Mercy.

Read Jim Julian's story

Jeff Kratzenberg: Heart Attack and Cardiac Shock

Jeff went into cardiac shock after a heart attack. He underwent a transradial cardiac catheterization to open his blocked artery.

Read Jeff Kratzenberg's story

Charlene Melcher: Aortic Aneurysm

After her diagnosis, Charlene went on a nationwide search that led her to aorta replacement aortic valve repair.

Read Charlene Melcher's story

Dennis Polega: Chronic Coronary Total Occlusion (CTO)

Dennis Polega - Chronic Coronary Total Occlusion Patient Story

Dennis thought he suffered a mild heart attack when he was diagnosed him with CTO. He underwent an angioplasty procedure.

Read Dennis Polega's story

Lynn Rutter: Preventing Heart Disease

Lynn Rutter - Heart Prevention Patient Story

Lynn, a smoker, decided to have a cardiologist screen for her risk of heart disease. She was given a personal plan that reversed her risk.

Read Lynn Rutter's story

Euphemia Steffey: Triple Vessel Disease

HVI patient Euphemia Steffey | Heart Patient Story

Euphemia was diagnosed with triple vessel disease, a blockage of 3 main arteries. She underwent a catheterization procedure and still goes to cardiac rehab.

Read Euphemia Steffey's story

Tim Valentine: Broken Heart Syndrome

Tim Valentine

Tim Valentine was at UPMC Altoona, where he received a life-saving heart procedure from George Jabbour, MD, to cure his broken heart syndrome, or Takotsubo cardiomyopathy. Now fully recovered, thanks to the Impella® pump, Tim is back to enjoying life with his wife.

Read Tim Valentine's story

Heart Rhythm Disorders Patient Stories

Ralph Bish: Atrial Fibrillation

HVI patient Ralph Bish | AFib Patient Story

Ralph needed an alternative treatment for his atrial fibrillation and underwent a WATCHMAN procedure.

Read Ralph Bish's story

Tom Predis: Atrial Fibrillation

HVI patient Tom Predis and his daughter | HVI Patient Story

After being diagnosed with AFib, Tom underwent a catheter-based ablation to treat his condition. Today, he feels great.

Read Tom Predis's story

Larissa Zeli: Abnormal Heart Rate

HVI patient Larissa Zeli | HVI Patient Story

Larissa struggled with her condition until she came to UPMC. Since then, she’s had an ablation procedure and received a pacemaker.

Read Larissa Zeli's story

Heart Valve Disease Patient Stories

Birdie Dally: Mitral Valve Prolapse

Birdie Dally - Mitral Valve Prolapse (MVP) Patient Story

Birdie had minimally invasive robotic-assisted valve repair surgery for her condition and is now back to playing with her grandchildren.

Read Birdie Dally's story

Dan Demarines: Mitral Valve Prolapse

Dan Demarines - Mitral Valve Prolapse (MVP) Patient Story

When Dan's chest pain worsened, he was referred to UPMC has his heart valve repaired using minimally invasive robotic surgery.

Read Dan Demarines's story

Debbie DiStefano: Mitral Valve Prolapse

Debbie DiStefano - Mitral Valve Prolapse (MVP) Patient Story

Debbie's leaking heart valve was causing her to feel sick so she underwent minimally invasive valve replacement surgery.

Read Debbie DiStefano's story

Jeff Donato: Mitral Valve Prolapse

Jeff Donato - Mitral Valve Prolapse Patient Story

Jeff, who races in 10 triathlons a year, was struggling during his workouts when he was diagnosed mitral valve prolapse.

Read Jeff Donato's story

Bill Kubacki: Mitral Regurgitation

HVI patient Bill Kubacki | Mitral Valve Leak Patient

Bill Kubacki underwent a minimally invasive procedure to fix severe leakage in his mitral valve.

Read Bill Kubacki's story

Denis Meighen: Mitral Regurgitation

HVI patient Denis Meighen | MitraClip Device Patient Story

Denis was high risk for heart surgery so his doctors performed minimally invasive surgery using the MitraClip® to fix his leaking valve.

Read Denis Meighen's story

Colleen Shirey: Mitral Valve Prolapse

HVI patient Collen Shirey | Robotic-assisted Valve Repair Patient Story

Colleen's heart valve needed to be repaired, and it was recommended for her to have minimally invasive robotic-assisted surgery.

Read Colleen Shirey's story

Bev Meermans: Mitral Valve Disease

HVI patient Bev Meermans | Mitral Valve Disease Patient Story

At 91 years old, Bev was diagnosed with cardiac failure as a result of mitral valve regurgitation. She underwent the minimally invasive MitraClip® procedure and was able to return to her active lifestyle.

Read Bev Meermans's story

Pulmonary Hypertension Patient Story

Julia Feitner: Pulmonary Hypertension

Julia Feitner - Pulmonary Hypertension Patient Story

Vascular Condition Patient Stories

Lois Ballog: Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS)

HVI patient Lois Ballog - HVI Patient Story

Lois developed numbness in her hand following shoulder surgery and was diagnosed with neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS).

Read Lois Ballog's story

Michelle Betts: Chronic DVT & May-Thurner Syndrome

Michelle Betts

Michelle Betts struggled with pain and swelling in her leg for years before she sought help at the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute.

Read Michelle Betts's story

Abby DiBenedetto: Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS)

HVI patient Abby DiBendetto

Abby had ongoing problems with blood clots until she sought help from the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute.

Read Abby DiBenedetto's story

Leo Parks: Popliteal Artery Aneurysm

Leo had severe leg pain before coming to UPMC, where doctors diagnosed him with an Aneurysm in his right popliteal artery.

Read Leo Parks's story

Tomas Vokoun: Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

HVI patient Tomas Vokoun | DVT Patient Story

Tomas, a National Hockey League goalie, had a massive blood clot in his leg and pelvis, a condition known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT)

Read Tomas Vokoun's story

Rick Swank: Aneurysm

HVI patient Rick Swank | HVI Patient Story

Rick had two infected aneurysms and got urgent treatment at the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute.

Read Rick Swank's story

Olivia Weiland: May-Thurner Syndrome

HVI patient Olivia Weiland | HVI Patient Story

Olivia struggled with a swollen foot for years before coming to UPMC, where doctors diagnosed her with May-Thurner syndrome.

Read Olivia Weiland's story

Norman Melser: Limb Ischemia

Norman, an avid runner, felt severe pain in his leg and went to the hospital. Doctors diagnosed him with limb-threatening ischemia.

Read Norman Melser's story

Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) Patient Stories

Heather Blum: Heart Arrhythmia

HVI patient Heather Blum and her daughter | LVAD Patient Story

Heather felt weak when doctors found she had a heart arrhythmia. A left ventricle assist device implant helped her heart regain strength.

Read Heather Blum's story

Amanda Goehring: Myocarditis Patient Story

Amanda Goehring - Chronic Coronary Total Occlusion Patient Story

While on an artificial heart pump and waiting for a transplant, Amanda's heart recovered so that she was able to avoid transplantation.

Read Amanda Goehring's story

Heart Transplant Patient Stories

Laura Baker: Heart Transplant Patient Story

Laura Baker

Laura Baker lived with heart muscle disease for 20 years. When her health took a dramatic turn for the worse in 2014, she learned she needed a heart transplant. As a busy mom of three, Laura hoped to stay at home with her children until her transplant instead of living in a hospital during the wait. She looked for an experienced transplant center that could help her do so, and her search led her to the UPMC Heart Transplant Program.

Read Laura Baker's story

Jeff Carpenter: Heart Transplant Patient Story

Jeff Carpenter

Jeff Carpenter was on the heart transplant list when his fifth heart attack sent him into cardiac arrest and he was flown by paramedics to UPMC Presbyterian. There, doctors stabilized Jeff and implanted a ventricular assist device (VAD) to help him recover enough to undergo a transplant. Jeff got a new heart in November 2013 and is enjoying life with his family.

Read Jeff Carpenter's story

Ben Collins: Heart Transplant Patient Story

Ben Collins

In 1995, Ben Collins, a sophomore at the University of Pittsburgh, noticed that he was having increasing difficulty going up a flight or two of stairs at the Cathedral of Learning. After a thorough evaluation, doctors discovered Ben had ventricular tachycardia, a condition that resulted in his heart racing at dangerously high rates. Since his transplant, Ben has recovered nicely and taken up running, and participated in many races.

Read Ben Collins's story

Phyllis Esau: Heart Transplant Patient Story

Phyllis Esau

Shortly after undergoing chemotherapy to successfully fight breast cancer, Phyllis began noticing that it was hard for her to carry things. She also had shortness of breath, and was tired. She was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, but her heart was in good enough condition to continue with her life normally while getting regular checkups from her cardiologist. Over time, though, Phyllis's heart continued to weaken and it was determined that she would need a heart transplant.

Read Phyllis Esau's story

Paul Jewell: Heart Transplant Patient Story

Paul Jewell

Paul Jewell was just 36 years old when he learned he had an enlarged heart and irregular heart rhythm. He managed his condition with medication for nearly 10 years, but in 1993, he developed severe congestive heart failure. Paul received a ventricular assist device, or VAD, and spent five months in the hospital before undergoing a heart transplant. Today, he and his wife live in Erie and he takes every opportunity to spread the word about the importance of organ donation.

Read Paul Jewell's story

Elex Jordan: Heart Transplant Patient Story

Elex Jordan

Elex Jordan's journey to a heart transplant began in 2007 with his first heart attack. Over the years, he managed his condition with the help of medication, an implantable cardioverter defibrillator, and his cardiac care team. In 2014, Elex's cardiologist determined he needed a heart transplant. Four years after his successful transplant, Elex has returned to the active, engaged grandfather and husband that he was. Elex and his wife Diane remain grateful for the top-notch care they received at UPMC and the life-changing medicine that offered Elex a new lease on life.

Read Elex Jordan's story

Tom Meshanko: Heart Transplant Patient Story

Tom Meshanko

In 1997, Tom Meshanko experienced some chest soreness and tingling in his left arm. Knowing his family had a history of heart disease, he went to see his doctors at UPMC Shadyside right away. Doctors told him he’d had a heart attack and his heart had suffered massive damage. Since his transplant, Tom has remained active, participating in the Transplant Games of America, and even took a hot air balloon ride.

Read Tom Meshanko's story

Andrea McConaughy: Heart Transplant Patient Story

Andrea McConaughy

Andrea McConaughy learned she had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a type of heart muscle disease, as a teenager. By her mid-20s, Andrea’s heart had become so weak that she needed a left ventricular assist device, or LVAD, to keep her alive. Andrea spent six months in the hospital before receiving a heart transplant. She now lives in North Carolina with her family and will celebrate the 20th anniversary of her transplant this year.

Read Andrea McConaughy's story

Tom Piccione: Heart Transplant Patient Story

Tom Piccione

Tom Piccione, a judge and father of five, lived with advanced heart disease for years before receiving a heart transplant at UPMC in 2014. His daughter, UPMC cardiologist Beth Piccione, MD, chose to study cardiology to help her dad and has been by his side every step of the way. Today, Tom is healthy and enjoying life with his family, including nine grandchildren. Ever grateful to his donor, Tom hopes his experience will inspire others to consider organ donation.

Read Tom Piccione's story

Phil Rostek: Heart Transplant Patient Story

Phil Rostek

When Phil Rostek arrived at UPMC Presbyterian with a failing heart, he felt like he was right where he needed to be. He’d always loved Oakland, and his confident, compassionate doctors put him at instantly at ease. Phil underwent a heart transplant in 2008. Today, he remains grateful to everyone who cared for him both before and after his surgery.

Read Phil Rostek's story

Bob Shoup: Heart Transplant Patient Story

Bob Shoup

It was during hunting season in 1985 when Bob Shoup, then 27, started experiencing fatigue and shortness of breath. A few days before Christmas, Bob’s arm went numb, and he couldn’t speak — signs of a stroke. Several weeks passed and Bob still had no energy, he couldn’t walk across the room without loss of breath. A chest x-ray revealed that his heart was enlarged due to congestive heart failure. Over the 27 years since his initial heart transplant, Bob has been able to lead a primarily healthy, normal life, and watch his family grow—something he wasn’t always sure would be possible.

Read Bob Shoup's story

Stacey Vernallis: Heart Transplant Patient Story

Stacey Vernallis

When Stacey Vernallis, a fit, active trial attorney and mom of three, came home from a business trip with a cough, the last thing she suspected was a heart problem. Just months later, Stacey learned she had cardiomyopathy and was in congestive heart failure. To support her heart until a transplant, Stacey received a left ventricular assist device, or LVAD. Stacey received a heart transplant in July 2014 and works every day to regain her active lifestyle as much as possible. She’s also actively involved in spreading the word about the importance of organ donation.

Read Stacey Vernallis's story

Mary Ann Wahl: Heart Transplant Patient Story

Mary Ann Wahl

Prior to a life-changing transplant at UPMC Presbyterian, Mary Ann Wahl’s heart condition prevented her from experiencing the many joys of raising her daughter, Katy. These disappointments and struggles were caused by restrictive cardiomyopathy — a disorder in which the heart chambers are unable to fill properly with blood because of stiffness in the heart. After a three-month recovery period, she felt fantastic, began walking four miles a day, and made plans to embrace life with her husband, Bob, and, of course, her daughter.

Read Mary Ann Wahl's story

Brandy Sweeney: Heart Transplant Patient Story

Brandy Sweeney

In 2014, Brandy Sweeney was enjoying life as a mother to two young boys and a baby girl on the way. Shortly before the birth of her daughter, however, Brandy was diagnosed with peripartum cardiomyopathy - a type of congestive heart failure that primarily affects mothers during their last month of pregnancy or shortly after giving birth. Brandy's doctors recognized her need for the best cardiovascular care and transferred her to UPMC, where doctors placed a left ventricular assist device - or LVAD - to aide Brandy's heart while she waited for a transplant. Three years after receiving her new heart, Brandy is grateful for her second chance at life and loves being an active and involved mother to her three young children.

Read Brandy Sweeney's story

Emil Steinmetz: Heart Transplant Patient Story

Emil Steinmetz

Emil Steinmetz lived an active life, enjoying pickup basketball games with his sons and spending time with his family. When a sudden heart attack revealed deterioration in his heart, Emil began his journey with the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute. Through careful monitoring by his doctors and the assistance of a pacemaker, Emil was able to continue living his life. Eventually though, the deterioration became severe enough to place Emil on the heart transplant waiting list. In 2016, 12 years after his initial heart attack, Emil received his heart transplant. He forged a special bond with his heart donor's family and continues to celebrate his gift of renewed life with his wife, children, and five grandchildren.

Read Emil Steinmetz's story

George Stout: Heart Transplant Patient Story

George Stout

George Stout's battle with cardiovascular issues began with a massive heart attack at age 45. Knowing he had a family history of heart problems, George sought care with Bryan Donohue, MD of UPMC. In the years that followed, George experienced 3-4 additional heart attacks, a bypass, and numerous other procedures. When a diagnosis of heart failure and atrial fibrillation came in 2017, George thought he was out of options. Luckily, the UPMC Advanced Heart Failure team felt confident they could help George. 27 years after his initial heart attack, George received a new heart. He now spends his days shag dancing with his wife and taking trips to North Carolina, enjoying his newfound lease on life.

Read George Stout's story