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Patient Matters: The Importance of Teamwork

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Tears of joy welled in Ginet Cubillos’ eyes as her husband, Gonzalo, 66, walked around the Coronary Care Unit (CCU) hugging the nurses who helped him recover from what she described as the “brink of death.”

“Mr. Cubillos’ successful outcome is not the work of one doctor or just one unit. It’s everyone who came together and coordinated his care and treatment planning,” said Charles Mack, MD, one of the many members of Mr. Cubillos’ care team. “Everyone communicated effectively and worked as a closely integrated team.”

While vacationing in Spain, Mr. Cubillos first started feeling weak and experiencing shortness of breath. As soon as he and his wife landed in New York, they drove directly from the airport to New York Hospital Queens. The couple, who currently reside in Douglaston, was familiar with the hospital from previous personal experiences.

In the Emergency Room (ER), the medical team discovered that Mr. Cubillos contracted pneumonia, weakening him on many levels. He became so ill that he developed multiple system organ failure including his lungs, liver, kidneys, colon and heart. Over the next 10 days, his body seemed to be losing the battle against his infection.

“Before we left for vacation, my husband seemed fine,” said Mrs. Cubillos. “Then two weeks later, he’s dying. He appeared to have aged so much and lost so much weight. I could hardly recognize him. It was so scary.”

Doctors also found that Mr. Cubillos had three blocked arteries to his heart. He needed surgery to restore blood flow to his heart, but was too sick to undergo a triple bypass procedure. The medical team worked tirelessly to improve his condition before surgery could be safely performed.

Heart problems gave the Mr. and Mrs. Cubillos the biggest jolt of their lives. One day while his wife was visiting him in the hospital, Mr. Cubillos’ heart began beating extremely fast. This condition, known as ventricular tachycardia, can potentially cause the heart to stop beating entirely. A rapid response team immediately rushed to the bedside of an unresponsive Mr. Cubillos. To resuscitate and bring his heart rate back to normal, the medical team used electric shock therapy.

Despite all setbacks, Mr. Cubillos and his wife maintained a positive outlook throughout the ordeal and turned to the power of prayer. Vigilant doctors and nurses from multiple subspecialties tirelessly worked together, and after six weeks of constant medical surveillance and care Mr. Cubillos was well enough to tolerate open-heart surgery.

“I had so many problems before the heart surgery, that when it finally happened, it was a piece of cake,” joked Mr. Cubillos.

In addition to the triple bypass, surgeons inserted an internal defibrillator in Mr. Cubillos’ chest to regulate his heart rhythm. His heart surgeon and other attending physicians were extremely pleased with his recovery. Within a week after open-heart surgery, Mr. Cubillos walked out of the hospital feeling that he had a new lease on life.

Mr. and Mrs. Cubillos wish to thank his entire healthcare team including Martin Kay, MD, his cardiologist; Charles Mack, MD, his heart surgeon; and Seth Keller, MD, his electrophysiologist. They also wish to extend their thanks and gratitude to all the doctors, nurses, residents, fellows, physician’s assistants and technicians from the ER, CCU, the Cardiovascular Recovery Unit, the Operating Room (OR), the Cardiac Catheterization and Electrophysiology Laboratories.

New York Hospital Queens brings to the community the exceptional resources of the Heart & Vascular Center. The Center provides the full spectrum of care and treatment: prevention, diagnosis, emergency and acute care, surgery, interventional and non-interventional therapies (such as cardiac catheterization, angioplasty and stents) and rehabilitation. All of these services bring a higher level of heart care close to home, right here in Queens.


Ginet and Gonzalo Cubillos

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