Former iron worker Michael DeFeo spent years building some of New York City’s tallest building. The 58-year-old Navy veteran was also a first responder at 9/11, clearing the massive wreckage the very next day.
His inner strength, invincible faith and fierce determination are the reasons he’s standing tall despite suffering three consecutive heart attacks in 2020. Fortunately for Michael, they took place while he was at Catholic Health's St. Francis Hospital & Heart Center® (Roslyn, NY) being admitted to undergo twin hip replacements.
“When I came to, they told me my heart had stopped beating for several minutes,” he recalled. “Then they told me I needed a Left Ventricle Assisting Device (LVAD), or I’d die. They said, Do you want to think about it? I said, I’ve thought about it. Let’s do it.”
Michael came through the LVAD implant with flying colors, but that delayed the hip replacements. He spent the better part of two years using a wheelchair or scooter to get around, while coping with substantial pain. But Michael is no quitter.
“I honestly believe that life’s hardships and challenges are an opportunity to prove what we’re made of,” he said. “We’re meant to live, not merely survive. So I kept pushing myself to get in shape for the procedure I knew could restore my mobility.”
As part of the prep, Michael’s orthopedic surgeon, St. Francis Hospital’s Chief of Joint Replacement Bruce Seideman, MD, consulted with Michael’s cardiologists, including Surgical Director of the Kroll Family Center for Heart Failure and Circulatory Support Edward F. Lundy, MD, PhD, MBA, who performed his LVAD implantation. It was determined that MichaeI could undergo the twin hip replacements. Today, he is walking over two miles a day in his North Babylon neighborhood.
“I’m a fighter; I always have been,” he reflected. Now the father of five is waiting to learn if he can undergo a heart transplant. His cardiologists, including St. Francis Hospital’s Director of the Center for Advanced Cardiac Therapeutics Rita Jermyn, MD, and Aman Shah, MD, are working to determine Michael’s fitness for the procedure. “I don’t live in fear. It’s better to live in hope. You’ve got to stay young at heart and live life to the fullest.”
While taking his daily walks, he spends time thinking about his personal bucket list. “Believe it or not, I hope one day to take up surfing. Skydiving too. Maybe even ride a bull in a rodeo,” he said with a laugh. “Hey, if I could stand on a steel girder 60 stories high, I can do anything.” Learn more about Catholic Health's LVAD services.
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