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Michael Perdriel: Heart Attack

Michael Perdriel, 70, lives an active lifestyle – he’s the father of two and a semi-retired visual artist who has worked on various movie sets. Michael has also rebuilt his home and enjoys martial arts.

"I work with my hands and my body all the time, and I’m used to pretty rigorous days of hard work," Michael says. "Movie sets are really stressful environments, and you work really long hours for extended periods of time."

Four years ago, many of his favorite activities suddenly became strenuous – even daily tasks like walking the dog became tiring and difficult.

He didn’t know it at the time, but Michael had developed coronary artery disease, a condition in which the blood vessels supplying oxygen to the heart are narrowed. He required immediate treatment after suffering a heart attack due to the condition and turned to the experts at the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute for care.

The Condition: Heart Attack

A heart attack happens when one or more of the coronary arteries is completely blocked due to plaque buildup and platelet clots, causing part of the heart to not receive enough blood flow. Sometimes, heart attacks occur suddenly. However, they can also present “silently,” meaning there are little or no symptoms.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death among men and women in the United States, and coronary artery disease is the most common form of heart disease.

Several factors can increase your risk of having a heart attack. A few common risk factors include:

  • Diabetes
  • Family history
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Smoking
  • Stress

Symptoms of a heart attack can be different from person to person. Prior to Michael’s heart attack, for example, he began noticing symptoms such as:

  • Bodily pains, specifically pains in his neck
  • Congestion
  • Shortness of breath

Michael didn’t experience other common heart attack symptoms, such as chest discomfort or pain, and therefore didn’t immediately attribute these symptoms to anything involving his heart. Moreover, his symptoms would go away and then come back a few days or weeks later.

“It was really hard to know whether these symptoms were because of an issue with my heart or not,” Michael says. “It just felt like chest congestion. I had no idea that would be a symptom for a heart condition – I didn’t have chest pain and my heart wasn’t hurting.”

Michael remembers his symptoms, especially congestion, starting a few months prior to the heart attack – he had a lot of mucus at night and then started getting pains in his neck.

His symptoms persisted and worsened the week leading up to his heart attack. He constantly felt fatigued, even though he hadn’t worked on a movie set for a while at that point and hadn’t done much physical or stressful work.

In addition to his stressful job, Michael has battled high cholesterol for as long as he can remember. He had been on and off cholesterol medication for many years, but the medication made his body sore, so it was difficult for him to take it with such a physically demanding job.

The Solution: Heart Assist Device Stent Placement

Michael woke up one morning at 4 a.m. and knew that something wasn’t right. At the time, Michael had no idea that he was having a heart attack. He went to the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute at UPMC St. Margaret, where he received immediate treatment from the team on call. From there, he was life-flighted to UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute at UPMC Shadyside, where he received advanced treatment. 

UPMC’s team of heart and vascular experts treated Michael’s condition using a temporary heart assist device and through percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI).

The temporary heart assist device used for Michael’s case is known as the Impella® device. This device is inserted minimally-invasively and acts as pump, aiding with blood flow during a PCI procedure. Typically this device is used in high risk individuals based on several anatomic and clinical factors.

While the heart assist device temporarily aids with blood flow, the PCI, or stent, procedure is performed to restore proper blood flow to the heart in the long term.

During this treatment, doctors first identify where a blockage is in the coronary arteries. Once the blockage is pinpointed, doctors use a metallic slotted tube, known as a stent, to that area, where it’s inflated and it restores proper blood flow to the heart.

After his procedure, Michael spent four days recovering in the hospital before being discharged home. He’s incredibly thankful for the care he received from Krishna Tummalapalli, MD, and the entire team at the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute.

“Dr. Tummalapalli is great, he’s just amazing,” Michael says. “Not only is he a really competent doctor, but he’s just a nice person to be around and to talk to about your condition. He always has time to explain things and answer questions about medications.”

Michael has follow-up visits with Dr. Tummalapalli every six months. While he has some limitations due to his heart condition, Michael is back to many of his favorite activities and has picked up a few new ones, including yoga and meditation.

Michael’s treatment and results may not be representative of similar cases.

The Impella® device is a trademark of Abiomed.