The Miracle of Lucerne
Shortly after the death of his wife, Seppi G. suffered two severe heart attacks. As his life hung by a thread, the usage of the Impella® heart pump helped to relieve the strain on his body and heart. Since then, he has been enjoying life more. Read his amazing story of heart recovery below.
An eventful life
Life is a gift. I enjoy it very differently than before, because I know it can all end so quickly. I experienced great misfortune: My wife died of cancer. Shortly after her death, I suffered two severe heart attacks. But I am alive. For this I am grateful to my attending doctor, Dr Florim Cuculi from the Lucerne Cantonal Hospital, who was responsible for ensuring the best conditions and swift treatment for me in this extreme situation. Today, I still have reduced cardiac output, but I am able to control it with medication and therefore no longer notice the insufficiency too much. I am very grateful to be able to live life to the fullest.
At the age of 68, I have had a very active professional life: My first job was as a postman, and then I worked in the IT industry for a long time. After that, I found a job in facilities management, followed by work as a lathe operator for a drum manufacturer. At the end of my career I returned to delivering post. My life was always stressful. Actually, my wife and I wanted to enjoy life together after retirement. Nonetheless, I was working at a grill several times a week in order to earn some extra money. Since the beginning of June, I have also been trying to redesign my flat with new furniture. This was also to be a new beginning of sorts, because five months earlier my wife died of lung cancer - after 43 years of marriage. You can't just move on after such a big loss. It affected me badly and may have been one of the causes of the heart attack that I suffered on July 8, 2014.
On the morning of my heart attack, I got up extra early because the old furniture was due to be collected from the flat. I made myself a coffee, smoked a cigarette and suddenly felt sick. When my wife was suffering from her illness, the hospital staff told me that it is better to call an ambulance once too often than once too little. So I didn't hesitate for long and called the emergency number in Switzerland - 144. Fortunately, I live just three kilometres from the hospital and in my situation I somehow remembered to open the doors to the building and the flat so that the emergency crew could reach me. Because shortly after they reached the stairwell, everything went black. In hindsight, I know that the paramedics started resuscitation immediately. Then the fire brigade also had to be alerted because the stairwell was too narrow to transport me down the steps. A turntable ladder was used to transfer me out of the house to the ambulance by way of the balcony. Once I arrived at the Lucerne Cantonal Hospital, I was welcomed by Dr Cuculi, lead doctor and head of acute cardiology at the hospital's cardiac centre.
My son was on holiday with his family at the time. After they found out about my heart attack, they immediately travelled back and visited me. My sister-in-law, Brigitte P., to whom I owe a lot, came to see me every day in the intensive care unit.
“I am very grateful to be able to live life to the fullest.”
The second heart attack
My life was hanging by a thread. My left coronary artery was completely blocked and my right one was almost in the same state. As a result, I was put into an artificial coma. Eight days later I woke up and immediately suffered a second heart attack. There were further complications: Kidney failure and severe pneumonia. Even the doctors had almost given up on me. I was hooked up to dialysis and had a breathing tube inserted. In order to relieve the stress on my heart and my body, the doctors treating me inserted the Impella heart pump from Abiomed during this critical and life-threatening phase. This reduced the strain on my heart and supplied my brain with more oxygen. The Impella heart pump is one of many factors that contributed to my survival. Because when a heart attack is that severe, there is a lack of oxygen reaching the organs, especially the brain, and many people often suffer permanent brain damage as a result. This was not the case for me, thank God. And my kidneys were also able to recover through dialysis.
Despite the many complications, I made it - after three weeks in the critical care unit, I was finally admitted to the general ward. One week later, I was even discharged to rehab. I was supposed to spend three more weeks there, but my body's blood supply was very weak due to the two heart attacks. One consequence of this was that I eventually had to have two toes amputated.
Weekly check-up appointments
For almost a year, I couldn't walk 100 metres in one go without needing a rest. My flat is on the 4th floor, without a lift. My body was so weak that I had to rest in the stairwell on every level. I take eleven tablets a day. They support me in my convalescence, as does my changed lifestyle. I can now walk for an hour at a time and climb the stairs to my flat without any problems. I go to my GP every month for a check-up and to the hospital several times a year for a check of my heart and blood vessels, and for blood flow tests. Due to the heart failure, my current cardiac output is at just 25%, but I can live quite well with that.
Sometimes I see Dr Cuculi in hospital. He often says to me that I am "the miracle of Lucerne" because he would not have thought it possible that I could still be alive after such a severe heart attack, and the subsequent complications, and that I could make such a dramatic recovery. I have always felt very comfortable in the hospital. The medical team has always taken very good care of me and we have a very friendly relationship – I owe my life to them.
“Sometimes I see Dr Cuculi in hospital. He often says to me that I am "the miracle of Lucerne”.
Every day is a gift
Apart from my missing toes and some water in my lungsI have no serious damage today. I was lucky. These days I paint pictures in my studio, go hiking or meet up with friends. Painting is fun for me and I am able to relax while doing it. To control my weight, I eat a healthy diet and don't eat too much. Because as soon as I stand on the scales and notice a sudden weight gain of two kilos, I am suspicious that water has built up on my lungs and that I should probably see a doctor.
At the moment I am in the process of fulfilling my big dream: I am organising my own exhibition, in which I will display my paintings in the oldest power station in Switzerland. In 2016, I also found love again – my partner Conny S. She took great care of me and contributed to the fact that I am doing so well again today. I enjoy my life very differently than before: I don't take anything for granted now because so much can happen in such a short period of time – you should always be grateful for the time you have on earth.