Health Check: Implantable catheter helps save New Bedford man

Manuel Bizarro

Manuel Bizarro went to St. Luke's Hospital in New Bedford last September for what he thought was chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Instead, the 74-year-old New Bedford man had a massive heart attack.

He was then transferred to nearby Charlton Memorial Hospital in Fall River.

"And despite all available conventional treatments, angioplasty, putting a special pump in his body, giving all kinds of medication, being on a ventilator, he was not getting better," said Dr. Iraklis Gerogiannis.

Bizarro was having one to two heart attacks a day for several days.

"And we were at the point that things were looking grim," Gerogiannis said.

Then a new device came to mind.

"I explained to him that this is something new. This is something cutting edge. And I thought this would give him a chance," Gerogiannis said.

It's called the Impella 5.0. It's an implantable catheter that replaces 100 percent of the heart's function.

The hospital had never used it before.

"We had trained. We were totally prepared for somebody like Mr. Bizarro," Gerogiannis said.

"We had a meeting and he talked about this new machine, a device that was never used before. At that point they've exhausted everything. This was like a Hail Mary pass," said David Bizarro, Manuel's son.

Monica Bizarro, Manuel's wife of almost 50 years, didn't hesitate.

"We have to because that guy has to live," she said.

So Gerogiannis surgically implanted the Impella 5.0 into his heart.

For several days, it helped keep Manuel going and making him strong enough to undergo life-saving heart-bypass surgery.

"Me more than anybody broke down. He's here you know. He's here. We never thought it," David Bizarro said.

Manuel spent more than a month in the hospital. He and his family are on a first name basis with pretty much the entire staff.

"All my love to Dr. G. Dr. G, my very nice doctor. He's the one that saved my life," Manuel said.

"In the final analysis, he is the star because really he fought and everything went very, very well," Gerogiannis said.

Rhode Island Hospital has the Impella 5.0, but doctors there say it's used infrequently.

Manuel Bizarro was the first, and to date, the only time the Impella 5.0 has been used to treat a heart patient at Charlton Memorial Hospital. It's reserved for patients who really don't have other options.