Take heart: You’re in safe hands with Bridgeport Hospital’s cardiac team

In response to an alarming decline in people seeking treatment for cardiovascular emergencies, our healthcare providers have an urgent plea – don’t delay your care for fear of COVID-19.

Cardiac Care Patient Ralph Roina
Any concerns Ralph Roina of Norwalk may have had about coming to the hospital for heart disease treatment during the pandemic disappeared the moment he arrived. The area attorney attributes his ease of mind to the numerous safety protocols in place at Bridgeport Hospital.

During the COVID-19 outbreak, a separate, serious health crisis emerged across the U.S. – many people stopped coming to Emergency Departments with life-threatening symptoms of heart attack or stroke and were not following up on critical cardiovascular conditions for fear of contracting the virus.

“Minutes matter in cardiac emergencies,” said Rockman Ferrigno, MD, chair, Emergency Medicine and associate chief medical officer, Bridgeport Hospital. “If you experience life-threatening symptoms such as chest pains, slurred speech or a seizure, call 9-1-1 immediately or go directly to the Emergency Department. Bridgeport Hospital’s Emergency Departments in Bridgeport and Milford are safe, fully staffed and ready to take care of you.”

From March through June, Bridgeport Hospital saw about a 40 percent decrease in all patients presenting to the Emergency Department for care, according to Dr. Ferrigno.

“Getting immediate help for a heart attack or stroke could mean the difference in a problem that can be treated without permanent damage and a problem with dire consequences,” Dr. Ferrigno said.

But it’s not just emergency care you shouldn’t delay. Routine and follow-up care are equally important so that cardiovascular disease doesn’t advance to the point where it becomes an emergency.

“Even mild cardiovascular disease can turn into a larger problem if not properly treated and monitored,” said Stuart Zarich, MD, chief of Cardiology, Bridgeport Hospital. “Heart conditions don’t wait for COVID to go away, and neither should you.”

Bridgeport Hospital cardiology patient Ralph Roina wasn’t going to let a global pandemic stand between him and the care he needed. Despite being concerned when his doctor, Richard Taikowski, MD, recommended he come in for an angiogram to treat his heart disease even as COVID-19 was surging in March, the area attorney said those concerns disappeared the moment he entered Bridgeport Hospital.

“I was a little apprehensive ahead of the angiogram,” Roina said. “But when I got to the hospital and saw how everything was set up and all of the safety measures that were in place, it didn’t bother me at all. I was able to focus on the procedure and doing my part to make it a success.”

From the temperature checks at the entrances and signage promoting precautions such as social distancing, wearing masks and cleaning protocols, Roina said it was clear that the hospital takes patient safety seriously. The experience was so positive that he reported having zero concerns when he came back in April for further treatment. “The second time I went in, I didn’t even think about it,” he said.

Looking back on his treatment so far, Roina says that he’s happy he made the decision to come in when he did.

“You don’t want to mess around with your heart,” he said. “I’ve heard the stories of people avoiding the hospital because they’re scared, and I understand that. But I can tell you from personal experience that it is completely safe.”

The Heart and Vascular Center at Bridgeport Hospital is open across all locations. “We never closed for urgent or emergent care, but for those whose procedures were postponed, we’re calling them back in,” said Dr. Zarich. “We know there are still concerns about COVID, and we’d never discount them; however, you need to weigh the risks of delaying care.”

“It’s very safe here, and that’s not just by chance,” said Dr. Ferrigno. “Our employees and healthcare providers monitor themselves twice daily for COVID symptoms and are fully trained in the proper use of personal protective equipment. Our recent healthcare worker COVID-19 testing initiative concluded that less than a quarter of one percent of our staff without symptoms tested positive for the virus. That rate is less than that of the general public, which in Connecticut has also been under 1 percent (as of the first week of August).”

“There’s an extremely low chance that you have it or that we have it, but we’re testing all patients before they have procedures or surgeries anyway, just to be as safe as possible,” said Dr. Zarich.

For those who test COVID-positive before a procedure, their care team will assess if the procedure can wait. If cardiac care is needed right away, “you’ll still receive excellent quality and safe care in a designated area of the hospital,” said Dr. Zarich.

How can you tell if you’re having cardiovascular issues and need to see a doctor? In general, chest pain and difficulty breathing are paramount and constitute an Emergency Department visit; other symptoms include fatigue, heart palpitations and swelling of the legs, Dr. Zarich said.

“If something doesn’t feel right, don’t try to self-diagnose or dismiss your symptoms. I always tell my patients – ‘you’re not being paid to identify the problem – we are.’ Come see us and we’ll take care of you.”

As for Roina, he has a follow-up with Dr. Taikowski in six months for one more procedure. He’s confident that he’s doing the right thing when it comes to his health. “I know I’m in good hands at Bridgeport Hospital. When I walk through those doors, I know that I’m going to get safe, excellent care.”

Bridgeport Hospital - Milford Campus

Minutes count in an emergency. Delaying care can have serious consequences. Bridgeport Hospital’s Emergency Departments in Milford and Bridgeport are safe and ready to care for you.

Symptoms of heart attack and stroke

If you experience these symptoms, call 9-1-1 or come to the Emergency Department right away.

Heart attack
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Pressure or pain in the chest or upper abdomen
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness or passing out
  • Nausea or vomiting

Remember the acronym B-E F-A-S-T:

  • Balance unsteady
  • Eyesight changes
  • Facial droop
  • Arm weakness
  • Speech difficulty
  • Time to call 9-1-1