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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

Mariah Berczel: Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy

Mariah Berczel | UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute

Mariah suffered a sudden cardiac event while exercising at her local YMCA. She was rushed to UPMC Jameson and then UPMC Presbyterian, where she was diagnosed with arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC). An implantable cardioverter device allowed Mariah to return to a life of re-prioritized passions.

Read Mariah Berczel's story

Kyle Conway: Aortic Root Aneurysm Patient Story

Image of patient.

Kyle Conway always knew he would need surgery to fix an aortic aneurysm. He turned to UPMC experts to safely remove the aneurysm.

Read Kyle Conway's story

Clyde Daubert: Heart Surgery

Clyde Daubert | UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute

Clyde Daubert had a cardiac catheterization revealing several arteries that led to heart surgery. Learn more about his experience at UPMC.

Read Clyde Daubert's story

Suzi Glass: Coronary Artery Dissection and Fibromuscular Dysplasia

Image of patient.

After being diagnosed with spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD) and fibromuscular dysplasia (FMD), Suzi Glass felt scared and uncertain. Here fears were eased by experts at the Magee-Womens Heart Program.

Read Suzi Glass's story

Paul Glover: Cardiac Arrest

Paul Glover with one of his UPMC McKeesport caretakers.

Paul walked into the Emergency Department at UPMC McKeesport with chest pain and quickly went into cardiac arrest. He was rushed to the cardiac catheterization lab, where he underwent a balloon angioplasty and stent placement.

Read Paul Glover's story

Dallas Hartman: Complex Aortic Dissection

Dallas Hartman | UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute

An attorney and self-proclaimed workaholic, Dallas Hartman understands now the importance of slowing down and of trusting your health care team. After facing grim cardiovascular diagnoses twice, he put his complete faith in his cardiovascular surgeon, Dr. Tom Gleason. Two life-saving procedures later, Dallas is enjoying life with his family and achieving a greater work-life balance.

Read Dallas Hartman's story

Jim Hines: Coronary Artery Disease

Image of patient with family.

Jim received world-class treatment for multiple serious heart conditions at UPMC, and was able to return home and recover with him family.

Read Jim Hines'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

Ann Kemmerer: Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement

Ann and Bill Kemmerer

After being diagnosed with aortic stenosis, Ann’s doctor told her about a new minimally-invasive procedure still in clinical trial. She was intrigued…but it was her husband who would have the surgery first. Now, they’re both back to their passions and making long-distance travel plans.

Read Ann Kemmerer'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

Mark Malecky: Coronary Artery Aneurysm

Mark Malecky

While hospitalized for an unrelated problem, UPMC doctors discovered a mass the size of a tennis ball on Mark’s heart.

Read Mark Malecky's story

Charlene Melcher: Aortic Aneurysm

A woman with blue eyes and curly blonde hair is smiling.

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

Amanda Sanderson: Preeclampsia

Amanda Sanderson.

When Amanda Sanderson learned she was expecting her first child in 2013, she never expected to experience hypertension in pregnancy (also known as preeclampsia).

Read Amanda Sanderson's story

Tim Smith: Cardiac Catheterization

Tim Smith | UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute

Tim Smith had a cardiac catheterization after a heart attack. Learn more about his experience at UPMC.

Read Tim Smith'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

Jane Stine: Cardiac Bypass Surgery

Jane Stine | UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute

Jane Stine had two heart attacks, a torn iliac artery, and two blocked arteries. Learn more about her cardiac bypass surgery at UPMC.

Read Jane Stine's story

Matthew Valente: Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM)

Matthew Valente | UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute

Matthew was a healthy 18-year-old senior in high school when he suddenly collapsed at home one evening. Diagnosed with sudden cardiac arrest as a result of unknown hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), Matthew was treated at both UPMC Altoona and UPMC Presbyterian. Today, he is thriving in college, with hopes to pursue a career in the medical field.

Read Matthew Valente'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

Bianca Labrador: Preeclampsia

Bianca has light brown wavy, shoulder length hair. It frames her face. She is smiling and has bright blue eyes.

Bianca was suffering the long-term effects of preeclampsia and turned to the experts at the Magee-Womens Heart Program to help.

Read Bianca Labrador's story

Heart Rhythm Disorders Patient Stories

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

Bob Kleppner: Mitral Valve Prolapse (NeoChord® Trial)

After being diagnosed with bicuspid aortic valve, Bob Kleppner sought care with the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute. When Bob began to experience mitral valve prolapse, he was presented with the opportunity to be the first patient in a new clinical trial. Today, Bob is healthy and active once again.

Read Bob Kleppner's story

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

David May: Aortic Stenosis and Mitral Regurgitation

David May

David underwent both the minimally invasive TAVR procedure and the minimally invasive MitraClip® procedure to repair his heart following a heart attack.

Read David May'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

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

Kenneth Humphrey: Functional Mitral Regurgitation

Kenneth Humphrey, UPMC patient

Kenneth was suffering the effects of functional mitral regurgitation when he was enrolled in the COAPT clinical trial through UPMC Presbyterian. After his Mitraclip® procedure, Kenneth regained his health and independence.

Read Kenneth Humphrey's story

Pulmonary Hypertension Patient Story

Julia Feitner: Pulmonary Hypertension

Julia Feitner - Pulmonary Hypertension Patient Story

Julia was diagnosed with PH during her second pregnancy and received an emergency Cesarean section and to begin treatment.

Read Julia Feitner's story

Vascular Condition Patient Stories

William Bisson: Aortofemoral Bypass

Moving to Western Pennsylvania to be closer to family turned out to be the right decision for William Bisson in more ways than one. When a sudden vascular event occurred, William was close enough to UPMC Northwest to seek care. These days, he's back to spending time with his family, thanks to the Division of Vascular Surgery at UPMC.

Read William Bisson's story

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

John Beckas: Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

John Beckas | UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute

John knew he chose the right team when he underwent valve therapy treatment with Dr. Ibrahim Sultan at UPMC Shadyside. When a sudden abdominal aortic aneurysm occurred, John and his family turned back to UPMC Shadyside and the HVI team, including Dr. Efthymios Avgerinos, to save his life.

Read John Beckas'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

Amy Bonner: May Thurner Syndrome

Amy Bonner

Nearly a decade ago, Amy was suddenly diagnosed with May-Thurner Syndrome and deep vein thrombosis at the age of 36.

Read Amy Bonner'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

Tom Fetterman: Peripheral Arterial Disease

A man with gray hair and rounded glasses. He wears a black shirt. He is smiling and looks happy.

Throughout his lifetime, Tom has completed more than 100 marathons. But after a blocked artery in his leg put a stop to his running, Tom turned to UPMC to get him back on his feet.

Read Tom Fetterman'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

Christine Noel: Dysfunctional Veins and Lymphedema

Christine Noel

Christine Noel sought care at UPMC Vein Centers when the wound on her leg wouldn't heal. Working with both the Vein Centers and the Lymphedema Program to address the dysfunctional veins and lymphedema in her leg, Christine is now back to her active life.

Read Christine Noel'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

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

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

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

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

Bob Lancia: VAD and Heart Transplant

Bob Lancia | UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute

Years of cardiovascular disease left Bob Lancia fearing he had run out of options. However, through the dedication of the Advanced Heart Failure and Heart Transplant teams, Bob received a ventricular assist device (VAD) and, eventually, a second chance at life through heart transplant.

Read Bob Lancia's story

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.

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

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 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

Brandy Sweeney: Heart Transplant Patient Story

Brandy's photo is courtesy of CORE.

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 at 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

Michelle Hagerty: Heart Transplant Patient Story

Michelle Hagerty

After living with a diseased heart for most of her life, Michelle Hagerty needed a heart transplant. Trusting in the care of her transplant team, Michelle received a second chance at life.

Read Michelle Hagerty's story

Dale Crawford: Heart Transplant Patient Story

Dale is wearing a black tuxedo with a white collared shirt and red tie. He has a beard and red hair. Molly hugs him while laughing. She wears a red dress. She has long straight brown hair, half pulled back.

Dale Crawford works as a neurodiagnostic technologist at UPMC Presbyterian, but soon after he started to experience health problems in December of 2020, the young man with a passion for helping patients became a patient himself.

Read Dale Crawford's story