After an Acute Heart Attack, a Queens Man’s Life Is Saved at the Mount Sinai Queens Cardiac Catheterization Lab

In April 2023, Dimitrios Sotiropoulos, 48, started to experience stomach pain. He scheduled an endoscopy, in which the gastroenterologist viewed his esophagus and stomach with a scope. But a week later, before the results came back, the symptoms changed. The pain spread to his upper rib cage, with a burning sensation in his chest, and he started sweating profusely. The symptoms became severe enough for him to leave work early and make an emergency appointment with his cardiologist. They carried out an electrocardiogram (EKG), a test that measures electrical signals in the heart, but the scan didn’t reveal anything troubling. 

After the appointment, Dimitrios bought some over-the-counter medication for heartburn and headed home, unaware that within a few hours he would be rushed to the Mount Sinai Queens Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory, where doctors would perform emergency heart surgery to save his life.

Dimitrios had suffered a heart attack in 2018, but that time he had experienced more common symptoms, such as crushing chest pain. He did not see a connection with his current symptoms, which although more unusual, can also be a sign of an imminent heart attack. However, when his poodle, Polo, (who rarely barks) woke him up at midnight, Dimitrios was in enough pain to realize he had to call 911 immediately.

“This little guy started barking and barking to wake me up. He wakes me up. There was the pain in the chest. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be alive today,” Dimitrios told PIX 11 News

The pain in his chest was “like nothing he had felt before,” he recalls.  When the ambulance arrived, he asked to go to a Manhattan hospital. However, the severity of his condition meant there was no time for the paramedics to take him that far. Instead, they took him to Mount Sinai Queens, where he was diagnosed with a STEMI heart attack. This is the most severe type of heart attack, where the coronary artery is completely blocked. He was immediately taken to the hospital’s Cardiac Catheterization Lab.

Atul Kukar, DO, then Director of the Mount Sinai Queens Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory, was in charge of treating Dimitrios that night. Dr. Kukar and his team carried out a minimally invasive stenting procedure called percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) and restored the blood flow to his heart muscle.

“Dimitrios made the right decision to not ignore his symptoms, even though they were different than his prior heart attack symptoms,” Dr. Kukar says. “Every patient is different and heart attacks present with a myriad of symptoms.  In addition, calling 911 was the smartest way to act. I am glad the team at Mount Sinai Queens was able to help this young patient right in his own backyard of Astoria.” 

Dimitrios was taken to the intensive care unit right after surgery, then spent three days at the hospital recovering. He says of Dr. Kukar and his team: “I think he’s just an incredible doctor. That whole team, especially those in the Cath Lab, they were all amazing. They made me feel comfortable and were reassuring that everything was going to be okay.”

Since then, Dimitrios has made a great recovery and has made big changes to his lifestyle and his overall attitude to life.

“After that my whole life changed,” Dimitrios says. “I started exercising and changed my diet. And I don’t stress about life anymore. If something is beyond my control, I’m not going to drag myself into the ground about it. And you have to listen to your body, to prioritize it—put yourself first and enjoy the finer things in life.”

The Mount Sinai Queens Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory, opened in 2022, is the first cardiac catheterization lab in Astoria, and only the fifth in the borough of Queens, and it has transformed treatment for patients in the growing communities of Western Queens by vastly improving access to cardiac care. The lab provides rapid and comprehensive care to heart patients with life-threatening emergencies and also performs elective scheduled cardiac procedures. The team consists of 14 specialists, including interventional cardiologists, nurses, and technicians.

“Mount Sinai Queens is now a destination for world-class cardiac care, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We need more facilities like this. We need to bring the care to the patients, and Mount Sinai has done just that in Astoria,“ Dr. Kukar says.