Steve Heller’s work is familiar to anyone driving from Kingston to Woodstock. His shop is off Rte 28. Photo by Kenneth Gabrielsen
When a noted Boiceville artist had a heart attack, seamless, advanced care got him back to creating robots, rocket ships and roadsters.
By Lisa Cesarano
The emergency cardiac care Steve Heller received at two WMCHealth hospitals enabled him to quickly return to his life’s passions.
“I’m a lucky boy,” muses the 76-year-old Heller, artist and owner of Fabulous Furniture in Boiceville, NY. “I do what I love and whatever I want every day.” This means building free-form, live-edge wood furniture and space-age sculptures, as well as building and painting cars. He has won won numerous accolades, including the 2009 New York Times Collectible Car of the Year and two Grand National Roadster Show’s Best in Class.
On his way to the shop one brisk day, Heller recalls that “the cold just hit my chest, but I didn’t think much of it. I got up the next morning and the same thing, but I really felt bad that day. I went home to rest and thought,Oh, my God… I think I’m getting the coronavirus.” His wife, Martha Frankel, director of the Woodstock Bookfest, convinced him to call a family friend and physician, who urged him to get checked out. Heller drove to the Emergency Department at HealthAlliance Hospital’s Broadway Campus, in Kingston.
When a blood test indicated he was having a heart attack, the Emergency Department staff prepped him and put him in an ambulance to go to Westchester Medical Center. “By that time, I was freaked out,” he remembers.
There, Heller was treated by interventional cardiologist Falak Shah, MD, in a catheterization lab that struck him as “very high-tech and impressive-looking — like science fiction.”
Dr. Shah performed a procedure called percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) to clear Heller’s artery, which was 95% blocked. (See sidebar.) During the procedure, Dr. Shah discovered a second artery, which was 85% blocked and stented the following day.
“Trust your gut — and trust your wife more!”
“One stent went through my wrist and the other through my groin; the incisions looked like mosquito bites,” Heller says. “All the doctors and staff were great, joking with me and reassuring me that I was going to be fine. I felt fine immediately and was back at work in three days. It’s really amazing.”
Fast-forward to today, when patients like Heller can receive advanced heart health services even closer to home. Now open at HealthAlliance Hospital: Broadway Campus is a new Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory offering two new cardiac programs. A first for Ulster County, these programs offer 24/7 emergency and scheduled advanced cardiac care and are guided by cardiologists affiliated with WMCHealth’s Heart and Vascular Institute.
The first program is percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) for nonsurgical coronary interventions to improve blood flow to the heart. The second program is electrophysiology (EP) for diagnosis and treatment of a full spectrum of heart arrhythmias, which are irregular rhythms caused by abnormalities in the heart’s electrical system.
“I got to know Steve very well,” continues Dr. Shah. “He really cares about his heart health and wants to be able to get back to his work and enjoy life. He takes his medications and has also improved his already healthful diet.”
Heller says he and his wife are both thrilled with the care he received every step of the way. “The people in the HealthAlliance Emergency Department and Dr. Shah were great,” says Heller. “I’m very pleased with everything.”
Heller is now back to working “a full-boogie 10-hour day,” transforming ordinary objects like old wheels, wrenches, gears and Christmas-tree stands into art. “I’m going to work until I can’t,” he states, “because what better thing is there than building a 20-foot dinosaur?”
TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE NEW CARDIAC CATHETERIZATION LABORATORY AT HEALTHALLIANCE HOSPITAL: BROADWAY CAMPUS, PLEASE CALL 866.962.4327 (866.WMC.HEART) OR VISIT HAHV.ORG/CARDIAC-CATHETERIZATION-LABORATORY.
FOR CARDIAC SERVICES AT GOOD SAMARITAN HOSPITAL, CALL 845.368.5620 OR VISIT GOODSAMHOSP.ORG/CARDIAC-SERVICES. FOR CARDIAC SERVICES ELSEWHERE AT WMCHEALTH, PLEASE CALL 866.962.4327 OR GO TO WMCHEALTHAPS.COM/HEART.
WHAT TO EXPECT: PCI
Minimally invasive percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) is a nonsurgical procedure that improves blood flow to the heart.
During the roughly one-hour procedure, the patient is placed under conscious sedation, and a thin tube with a deflated balloon on the end is threaded through a blood vessel to the narrowed or blocked artery. Once in place, angioplasty is performed to open the blockage, and a stent is opened and placed in the artery to restore blood flow.
“Patients typically remain in the hospital for overnight observation and are instructed to avoid lifting for the first week,” says Dr. Shah. “Following the procedure, patients may be placed on platelet inhibitors, beta blockers and statins, to prevent future heart attacks and to keep the heart muscle healthy.”
Follow-ups are conducted immediately after the procedure and then at regular intervals, depending on the individual needs of the patient, adds Dr. Shah, to ensure that heart function has improved.
If you have symptoms of a heart attack, do not wait. Call 911 and get to the closest Emergency Department.