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Macomb Township couples health issues help them make most of life

Time:2018-04-13 05:56wine - Red wine life health Click:

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Lisa and Dominic Cardillo of Macomb Township and their pet taking it easy at home.

Lisa and Dominic Cardillo of Macomb Township and their pet taking it easy at home. GINA JOSEPH - THE MACOMB DAILY

Lisa and Dominic Cardillo used to think they would die when they were old.

Since Lisa’s heart attack and Dominic’s battle with brain cancer they have become acutely aware that death waits for no one. It can come knocking at any time.

For Dominic, 37, it happened in the middle of the night. He suffered a grand mal seizure and an hour later the young couple with three children ages 5, 8, and 11 were told he had brain cancer. That was the first time they realized how unpredictable life can be.

After Dominic had completed his lengthy treatments following surgery for brain cancer and returned to work, he was aware of how precious their time together can be and the two started living life a little differently. An engineer, when his company offered him a chance to work for a few months in California they seized the opportunity. Lisa, also 36, who home schools their children, packed up their books, rented out their home and went west.


“I would’ve never, ever done that before Dominic got sick,” Lisa said.

After what they went through it was like why not?

“I’m not going to wait to live anymore,” Lisa said.

It was a great decision and a trip the entire family will never forget.

“It was like the rainbow after our storm,” Lisa said. “Even just the drive out there was great. We saw the Grand Canyon. I saw mountains for the first time and Dominic and the kids saw the ocean.”

Once back home, their zest for making the best of their time never faltered.

For their 15th wedding anniversary, the Macomb Township couple decided to plan a four-day trip to the west side of the state, just for the two of them, no kids.

The getaway included reservations at a bed and breakfast, with great views of Lake Michigan’s sunsets, tickets to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers and a tour of the local breweries.

It was June 24, 2017.

After arriving at their destination they popped open a bottle of red wine and were about to celebrate when everything changed. Lisa started to feel a burning sensation in her chest, and pain that seared through to her back. Then she got violently ill. Having read something on Facebook about how women differ from men when it comes to symptoms of a heart attack she had a good idea what was happening.

“One of the last things I remember is telling Dominic, ‘This is a sign of a heart attack,’” she said.

Luckily, Dominic didn’t panic and he chose to trust Lisa’s instincts. Instead of going to an urgent care center, they jumped in the car and Dominic headed for the nearest hospital. Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital popped up in a Google search, and within 12 minutes Dominic pulled into the emergency department parking lot.

Lisa does not remember entering the ER but she’s been told that when she arrived she waved off using a wheelchair and walked into the ER on her own, while Dominic parked their car.

Being 36, everything but a heart attack was suspected at first. However, after approaching the triage desk, she collapsed to the floor, hitting her head on the counter on her way down. She was in cardiac arrest when Dominic entered the ER looking for her and feeling sorry for the woman lying on the floor and surrounded by ER staff. He soon came to realize the woman receiving CPR and two defibrillator shocks to get her heart pumping again was Lisa.

After several tests to evaluate her heart and a CT scan to rule out a significant head injury, she was moved to a cardiac catheterization lab in Spectrum Health Fred and Lena Meijer Heart Center.

“Her EKG showed she was having a heart attack, an acute myocardial infarction,” said Dr. Ryan Madder. “We tend to be pretty aggressive about taking patients to the cath lab, particularly when they’re young, after a cardiac arrest. But when they have findings of heart attack on their EKG we’re even more aggressive.”

Further tests showed her heart attack was caused by a tear in the lining of an artery that supplies the heart, a condition known as spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD).

It’s rare and accounts for 5 percent of all heart attacks, although Dr. Madder said recent estimates attribute it to one-third of heart attacks in women under age 50.

Eventually, the artery corrected itself but she developed cardiogenic shock -- her heart was so weak after the heart attack it wasn’t pumping enough to sustain her life. To give her heart a chance to recover Madder recommended inserting an Impella heart pump to help out until her own heart recovered. It worked and after 36 sessions of cardiac rehabilitation she was on the mend. Because her heart was still vulnerable once she was stronger she also underwent surgery to implant a defibrillator in her side. She’s still taking things slow but grows stronger every day. She’s also become determined to educate women on the signs of a heart attack and how to advocate for themselves. As she says, if something doesn’t feel normal, investigate it and don’t stop until you get answers,

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