MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — You wouldn’t know it looking at her, but Dolores Martins is one heck of a fighter. For almost half of her 66 years, the Mineola grandmother has been battling multiple serious health issues.
“Thyroid cancer, open heart surgery, two kidney transplants,” Martins said.
Both of those transplants failed, so Martins has been on dialysis for almost 30 years. But it’s the atrial fibrillation she recently developed that almost did her in.
Her daughter told CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez the medicines to slow her heart rate worked too well.
“The medications were slowing her heart down so much to the point where her heart was stopping,” Diana Pereira said. “It was very scary for us, for the children to come and see her knowing that her heart could stop and not start again.”
The usual solution would be a pacemaker to run wires through upper body veins into her heart. But years of dialysis made that impossible.
“She had a dialysis access on this (left) side, and she had a vein that was occluded on this (right) side, so there was no channel to get a regular pacemaker into her heart,” said Dr. Apoor Patel of North Shore University Hospital.
So Patel tried to insert a new, tiny pacemaker called a “micra.” That’s done via a long catheter through a vein in the groin. But Martins also had a filter in place to prevent blood clots from getting to her heart.. That blocked the pacemaker.
That’s where Dr. Mitchell Weinberg came in.
“The key was being able to open up that main vein that leads to the heart in order to allow passage,” said Weinberg, also of North Shore University Hospital.
Weinberg used a balloon catheter to temporarily open a space in Martins’ filter to let the pacemaker get through.
Now two months later, the whole Martins clan gathered to celebrate Dolores and her husband’s 44th wedding anniversary, just two days away.
And the happy couple couldn’t be better.
“She’s as beatiful as ever,” said husband Carlos. “She’s my wife. She’s beautiful.”
“I would continue living my life — driving around, going shopping,” Dolores Martins said.
The tiny pacemaker was approved by the FDA about a year ago, and the balloon to open up the clot filter is standard cardiac technology. But it’s the first time the combination of both has been used.