'I am CardioSmart' Contest Honors Fresno Heart Transplant Recipient

Contact: Nicole Napoli, nnapoli@acc.org, 202-375-6523

WASHINGTON (Feb 07, 2017) -

After two massive heart attacks followed by a quintuple bypass, Fresno rancher Phillip Cartozian turned his life around to stay healthy. Although he did everything right with diet, medications and an implanted defibrillator, nearly 20 years later he needed a heart transplant. Cartozian’s incredible story of several second chances at a healthy heart has led the American College of Cardiology to recognize him in the “I am CardioSmart” contest.

“In 1993 I had two massive heart attacks that immediately resulted in losing 70 percent of my heart,” Cartozian said. “I was transported to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, and Dr. Hillel Laks and his team repaired my heart with a quintuple bypass. I was code blue twice and was revived after flat-lining for 35 minutes.”

After this alarming incident, Cartozian, a former Marine sergeant, described his heart as an “old Model A motor.” Maintaining his heart health now meant having an implanted defibrillator, taking up to 10 medications, and changing his diet to fruit, vegetables and fish.

This worked for about 12 years, until Cartozian noticed that his heart was getting weaker.

“My ejection fraction was getting low, and the doctors prescribed more medications to assist my heart and to alleviate the stress on my heart. My new normal blood pressure was 90/70, and my lungs would fill with fluid on a regular basis—which was terrifying at times,” he said. “I wasn’t able to catch my breath and felt like I was drowning. My ejection fraction dropped to below 20.”

In 2013, Cartozian was visiting his ranch when his heart stopped. His defibrillator, implanted 20 years before, saved his life.

Although the defibrillator did its job, Cartozian soon felt his health deteriorating rapidly.

“I could not digest simple foods. I became dizzy. I withdrew from my family and friends. Feeling as though I was nearing the end, I would sit alone in my bedroom, reading the Bible, and asking the Lord to take me every day,” he said “My lungs were filling with fluid, my ejection function was around 15, and I would have to go to the emergency room almost on a weekly basis.”

After nine of these emergency room visits, Laks told Cartozian that it was time for a heart transplant.

“I embraced the transplant surgery with hope and excitement,” Cartozian said. “I looked forward to whatever time my new heart would give me. I went through different phases of recovery, including daily six-hour dialysis treatments for the first two months after my transplant surgery. Every day I recovered and lived brought me renewed hope and vitality.”

Cartozian no longer needs a defibrillator or blood thinners and said he is free of high blood pressure, heart failure, atrial fibrillation and coronary heart disease.

“I have been given the best gift of all, a new heart and life, and every day I thank God for this chance and mostly for all the doctors and nursing staff who have taken care of me,” he said “I owe everything to and give my utmost appreciation once again to all the staff at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and Cardiovascular Consultants Medical Group of Encino.”

CardioSmart is the patient education and support program developed by the ACC. Its mission is to engage, inform and empower patients to better prepare them to participate in their own care. In 2013, CardioSmart established a contest to find individuals who were living well with specific heart disease conditions: congenital heart defect, heart failure, atrial fibrillation, heart attack, coronary artery disease or stroke. Four finalists were chosen this year and their winning profiles were featured on CardioSmart’s Facebook page. A vote on the most inspirational story was held on Facebook.

Jacob Burris of Eugene, Oregon, was selected as the overall winner. The two other “I am CardioSmart” contest finalists are Roxanne Watson of Nanuet, N.Y., and Allison Jamison of Louisville, Ky.

To learn more about Phillip’s story, visit www.cardiosmart.org/Connect/Patient-Stories/Phillip-Cartozian.

To learn more about coronary artery disease, visit www.cardiosmart.org/Heart-Conditions/Coronary-Artery-Disease

The American College of Cardiology is a 52,000-member medical society that is the professional home for the entire cardiovascular care team. The mission of the College is to transform cardiovascular care and to improve heart health. The ACC leads in the formation of health policy, standards and guidelines. The College operates national registries to measure and improve care, offers cardiovascular accreditation to hospitals and institutions, provides professional medical education, disseminates cardiovascular research and bestows credentials upon cardiovascular specialists who meet stringent qualifications. For more, visit acc.org.


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