Bloomfield, NJ – They shared deeply personal stories of surviving heart attacks, having heart surgery and undergoing rehabilitation, but all echoed the same message: live life to the fullest and take good care of yourself.
That was the theme cardiac survivors shared with others at the Heart Hugs Ball, an annual event to celebrate the lives of cardiac patients and to honor the cardiology team at Clara Maass Medical Center (CMMC). This year’s ball was held at Forest Hill Field Club in Bloomfield on March 12.
“I have all the staff at Clara Maass to thank, they’re like family,” said Peter Zangari Sr. of Belleville, New Jersey, who survived two heart attacks, bypass and open heart surgery, and was treated by the Director of Cardiology, Fadi Chaaban, M.D. He said going to the cardiac rehabilitation suite where he exercises and meets with the CMMC staff helps keep him healthy. “Some mornings I feel lousy, (the staff) will come over. It makes you feel good, you feel warm.”
The cardiac staff – many of whom spoke at the event – had a genuine affection for their patients. They knew them by name and recognized their family members. “Every day I have the privilege of sharing my story with my cardiac patients,” said Debbie DeVries, who is not only a cardiac survivor, but works as research coordinator at the cardiac cath lab at CMMC. “I know how important it is to take care of yourself emotionally and psychologically.”
Mary Ellen Clyne, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer at Clara Maass Medical Center, welcomed the patients and their families, “This celebration is for you – our cardiac survivors. Your strength and courage are an inspiration to all of us. You are a symbol of life and how we can overcome the most trying challenges, both physical and emotional.”
Dr. Chaaban, who treated many of the patients in the room, said he was delighted to see so many healthy patients and urged them to continue with their cardiac recovery by taking part in rehabilitation services offered at CMMC, “It’s a pleasure and honor to see you coming here, to see you alive and enjoying things. . . We want to help you as much as we can, to keep you in the community. . . We want you to be healthy. . . We don’t want you in the hospital. We want you to stay home and stay alive.”
After encouraging the survivors to stay healthy through exercise, healthy eating and keeping up with their medical care, the speeches ended and the participants enjoyed a delicious heart-healthy dinner and dancing. Each cardiac patient was presented with a certificate and gift from CMMC.
Clyne had some final words for the guests, “We’re here for you, no matter what. God Bless you.”
March 22, 2013
Contact: Elizabeth Moore/Courtney Lynch
Public Relations Department
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