"I have a family history of heart attack, but I never thought it would happen to me. I was so glad it was a quick ambulance trip to Jefferson, where doctors inserted two stents. I am now feeling better than ever. Thank you for saving my life." - Marjorie, 71
"Everyone at Jefferson Regional gave me wonderful care - from my surgeon and cardiologist to my family doctor and my nurses. I am grateful that I chose the best place for my bypass surgery." - John H., 53
High School Coach John “Hoppy” Mitruski can claim some impressive numbers: four high school football championship rings, thirty years of teaching Phys Ed, and coaching two sports – football and girls’ softball. Six cardiac catheterizations. Four stents. Three coronary arteries repaired by surgery.
Mitruski, 60, of Jefferson Hills, served as assistant coach of the Thomas Jefferson Jaguars’ football team during its three state championships and one additional WPIAL title, and has coached for more than three decades. He goes by “Hoppy” after Hopalong Cassidy, a fictional cowboy hero.
Hoppy’s surgery was one in a series of cardiac treatments he’s had throughout the years: several heart attacks, emergency heart catheterizations and, most recently, triple coronary artery bypass surgery to address a 90 percent blockage. Not one to sit and relax, Mitruski has put in an hour a day, three days a week, of weight training, running, cycling and stretching, and has lost more than 20 pounds since his first attack.
Dr. Chong Park, Mitruski’s cardiac surgeon, says that it’s “fairly common” for people who survive a heart attack to have another one. Hoppy, looking tan and fit from practices in the sun, isn’t taking any chances. He continues to work out and eat right. His trainers in cardiac rehab keep him on track, he says. “They’re wonderful; they give you a good workout. This is my third or fourth time in rehab, I’ve lost track,” he jokes. “They’re genuine, good people; they make it easy.”
“I’m living proof that the program works.”
Linda Cook was out with friends when she noticed she wasn’t feeling well – ache and discomfort in her shoulder and neck, and tightness in her throat. She drove home, and decided to lie down. Her daughter, a volunteer EMT, had a better idea: she called 911. Brentwood EMS arrived and hooked Linda up to an EKG, transmitting to the ED and cardiology teams waiting at Jefferson Regional. Within minutes of arrival, interventional cardiologist Dr. Daniel Rubin discovered 100 percent blockage in her coronary artery, and inserted a stent to open the blockage.
After a two-day hospital stay, Linda began six weeks in cardiac rehab, which was “really beneficial,” she recalls. “I had great care in the CV Unit, and a very positive experience in Rehab. Now, I tell any woman who will listen, go get checked! And know the symptoms of a heart attack.”
As a registered nurse with a family history of heart disease, you’d think that Joe Downing of Jefferson Hills would have had a heads-up on the sensation he described as “an elephant sitting on my chest.”
Instead, he wrote it off as stress from his hyper-busy schedule of work and classes toward a master’s degree as a nurse anesthetist. When he was exhibiting similar symptoms several years earlier, his physician had prescribed a stress test and anti-cholesterol medication. This time, he pointed Joe to Jefferson interventional cardiologist Daniel Rubin, MD, who determined, through a cardiac catheterization, that Joe had 90 percent blockage in his left anterior descending artery. The next day, Joe underwent single cardiac bypass surgery with cardiovascular surgeon Kyung Park, MD, medical director of the cardiovascular care unit.
“The heaviness in my chest was the only symptom I had,” he recalls. “ I didn’t have pain or shortness of breath. I didn’t realize I was on my way to a heart attack.” Now, Joe is on schedule to complete his master’s degree, while he completes another important assignment: cardiac rehabilitation.
“As a nurse, I am always impressed by a top-notch surgical experience. I can’t say enough about the great care I received at Jefferson. The nurses, the doctors, the entire staff – everyone was just great.”