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Lifesaving cardiac device sparks recovery

When you’re a little hazy about how many heart procedures you’ve had, you’ve probably had a lot. Just ask Douglas F. Mauro, 63. Over the past 20 years, he’s had about a dozen interventions. He’s had stents. He’s had a bypass. He’s had coronary artery plaque sanded down to improve blood fl ow. In addition, this retired Chicago policeman lost a leg to diabetes years ago and more recently had a stroke.

“He’s a very, very tough individual,” says Douglas Tomasian, MD, a cardiologist with Centegra Health System. “He kind of has nine lives.” That may even be an understatement. Just last year, Mauro had a series of very close calls. He’s still with us, thanks to his wife; a neighbor; Centegra associates; and the LifeVest, a special wearable defibrillator that can sense erratic heartbeats. It shocked him back to life. Twice. “It worked exactly like it was supposed to,” he says.

The incident is the latest, and perhaps most dramatic, of Mauro’s many cardiac stories. They start with his first procedure in 1993 in Chicago. Over the years, Dr. Tomasian says, Mauro developed ischemic cardiomyopathy, a weakened heart muscle, following advanced coronary artery disease and multiple heart attacks.

In 2013, Mauro says angina sent him to Centegra Hospital–McHenry for another procedure. While there, he suffered a stroke and received emergency treatment. During his recovery, doctors very aggressively treated his heart problems, which included relieving fl uid buildup in his lungs. “That took the strain off his heart, and we got him feeling better,” Dr.Tomasian says.

The next concern: abnormal heart rhythms. The solution is often a permanent, implanted defibrillator. However, Mauro needed time to recover fi rst, so Dr.Tomasian suggested the LifeVest. The device is worn under the shirt and attaches to a monitor that hangs from a shoulder strap. If the monitor senses a dangerous rhythm, the vest delivers a shock to restore a normal pattern. That’s what happened a few days later, as Mauro waited for a ride to the barbershop. “I was just waiting for my neighbor by the kitchen door, and I didn’t feel well,” Mauro says. He thought his blood sugar was dropping. A few seconds later, though, the vest’s alarm sounded. The device activated once, and then again. His wife and the neighbor administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation before the ambulance arrived.

After Mauro was stabilized at Centegra Hospital–McHenry, doctors installed the permanent device. Today, Mauro feels well. He continues rehabilitation, keeps up with medications and watches his diet. He also credits Centegra. “Everybody is so fantastic,” he says. “Not only are they extremely knowledgeable and good at their jobs; they’re also very compassionate.” While Mauro’s case is more complicated than most, it does showcase the range of cardiac services Centegra provides. “What we offer at Centegra is a full scope of both basic and advanced cardiac therapies,” Dr. Tomasian says. “The vast majority of patients can get all of their treatment right here. “We are very rooted in our community and we have a commitment, top to bottom, to deliver the very best care we can,” he says.

Ease concerns about your heart health with Centegra’s leading-edge cardiac screenings. For information, call 877-Centegra (877-236-8367) or visit