Doctors Team up to Help Active Dallas Man Defy Family Medical History

Luis Lara may be 62 years old, but you’d never know it. The Dallas resident has been playing soccer since he was five years old. You could say soccer is as ingrained in his life as his family’s troubling medical history.

“My grandfather, great-grandfather, father, uncles, aunts and cousins have all died from heart attacks,” Lara says.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States and Texas. In 2017, heart disease alone accounted for more than 45,000 deaths in Texas.

An estimated 80 percent of cardiovascular disease cases are preventable, according to the American Heart Association. There are many things you can do to reduce your chances of getting heart disease, such as controlling your blood pressure, managing stress, getting regular exercise and managing your cholesterol levels, to name a few. But there are also a few risk factors you can’t change, such as age, gender, race or ethnicity, and family history.

Knowing this, Lara has been proactive about his heart health through exercise and blood pressure medicine, but it wasn’t enough.

“I was sleeping and woke up with a strong pain in my chest. A pain as if someone was stabbing me,” Lara recalls. “It was so intense that I could not stand the pain.”

Lara was rushed to Texas Health Dallas where he was treated for a major heart attack. Lara had three major blockages in the coronary arteries — a life-threatening event.

According to Tulio Diaz, M.D., a cardiologist and physician on the medical staff at Texas Health Dallas and at Cardiology & Interventional Vascular Associates, a Texas Health Physicians Group practice, the original plan of action was to get the main blockage open using a stent (angioplasty). But once Diaz recognized he would not be able to fix the corresponding blockages with stents, he teamed up with Mark Pool, M.D., a cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon on the medical staff at Texas Health Dallas and at CVT Surgical Associates, a Texas Health Physicians Group practice.

“I knew that he would need bypass surgery in order to fix all of the blockages that he had in his heart,” Pool says. “Basically, with bypass surgery we are adding new pipes onto the heart to allow blood flow into the area that had been cut off by the blockages. Those new pipes are from the patient via arteries from other areas and veins from the leg. We take those and reroute the blood flow by reconnecting them in certain places to improve the blood flow delivery to the heart muscle.”

Through the doctors’ teamwork, they were able to restore complete blood flow to Lara’s heart, resulting in normal heart function without any restriction. It’s a collaboration that is becoming more common in cardiology, Diaz says.

“Gone are the days of where it’s cardiologist versus surgeon — today we’re on the same team,” Pool agrees. “We love working together closely for the patient’s benefit.”

Thanks to his overall good health and cardiac rehab, Lara took the field again four months after his surgery.

I feel perfect,” Lara says. “I feel energized and more relaxed without fatigue. I continue to eat well, avoiding fats and cholesterol. I owe it to God, Dr. Diaz, Dr. Pool and their staff. It’s a blessing having those professionals who made the operation possible and that it was a success.

“I tell everyone that I have a new heart and a new life. I am happy for that because it’s really wonderful that I have a second chance at life. I am taking advantage of it!”

How Old is Your Heart?™ Take our assessment to gauge your risk for heart disease, and to find out more about how family history affects heart disease and the heart and vascular services at Texas Health, visit TexasHealth.org/Cardiovascular-Services

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