Patient Gets a Second Chance at an Active Life After Heart Attack While Running

Verissimo Costa considered himself to be in good shape. Almost on daily basis, he would go for long-distance runs throughout New York City. But Verissimo received a frightening wake-up call during one of those jogs, in October 2018. While he was running on his favorite path along the Hudson River, his heart stopped as he dropped on the ground, unconscious and pulseless. “I was clinically dead for a few minutes, like five minutes,” Verissimo says. Thankfully, two cyclists in the park saw him collapse and proceeded to perform CPR. Paramedics responded to the scene and rushed Verissimo to Mount Sinai Morningside (MSM).

When Verissimo arrived at MSM, John Puskas, MD, Chairman of Cardiovascular Surgery at Mount Sinai Morningside, Mount Sinai Beth Israel, and Mount Sinai West, took over his care. The first priority was cooling Verissimo’s body temperature to help brain healing. Then Dr. Puskas performed an innovative heart bypass.  "We performed a highly unique procedure, one in which we do not use any veins, rather only employ arteries for the bypass," Dr. Puskas told WABC in a news report on Verissimo’s care. The procedure, known as totally endoscopic coronary arterial bypass surgery or TECAB, is performed using only micro-incisions and offers eligible patients a much quicker recovery and less pain, scarring, and risk of infection.

According to medical experts, most people die after a heart attack like the one Verissimo experienced. Fortunately, Verissimo made a full physical recovery. However, he had to get past the fear of a repeat heart attack while running. With the support of Dr. Puskas, who joined him on a number of his runs, Verissimo pushed through. In fact, Dr. Puskas and Verissimo had planned to run the NY Marathon this year, but it was cancelled due to COVID-19.

Verissimo never believed he would be hospitalized because of a heart issue. He was 42 years old, a vegan, and had annual physicals. But there was a history of heart disease in his family. His advice for people who believe their healthy habits are enough?  “No matter how young or healthy,” he says, “there’s still danger if you have a family history of heart disease. You cannot take your health for granted.”

To read more, visit ABC7.