Out of the blue one night, 68-year-old heavy metal bass guitarist Sal Italiano went into cardiac arrest after going to bed in his Deerfield Beach home.
His wife Christine frantically performed CPR on him with the guidance of a 911 phone operator until paramedics arrived.
A cardiac catheterization procedure revealed he had three blocked arteries and needed a coronary artery bypass graft (CABG). This surgery involves taking healthy blood vessels from a patient’s legs or chest to create blood flow around a blocked artery in the heart.
Italiano was in critical condition and being kept in an induced coma for several days so he could tolerate his breathing tube. However, his cardiothoracic surgeon, Kenneth Herskowitz, MD, needed confirmation that his brain was still functioning.
The hospital staff periodically eased his sedation to check his condition and after four days he was awake and neurologically stable and able to have his open-heart surgery.
After the surgery, Italiano had no memory of the events that landed him in the hospital and was experiencing no pain; he could not believe what had happened.
“I don’t remember the first part of my journey, but from the point that I do remember, the care I received at Broward Health Medical Center was absolutely stellar,” Italiano said. “The doctors, nurses, everyone on staff were wonderful. I have never had such a caring experience.”
Italiano was up and walking the second day after his surgery. His wife Christine’s next challenge was ensuring that, while he didn’t remember the cardiac arrest, he did remember to follow doctors’ orders by taking it easy for eight weeks and doing his physical therapy, even though he felt good.
“I take medicine for high blood pressure and cholesterol, but I never saw this coming,” Italiano added. “The doctors tell me there are signs that I had previously had a heart attack. It was a silent heart attack because I never even knew it happened.”
Italiano’s music career has spanned more than 50 years. He has performed around the world with heavy metal bands including Cities and Anvil. Just the week before his cardiac arrest, Italiano performed locally at the 13th-anniversary party for Rock-n-Roll Ribs with friends Nicko McBrain, the drummer from Iron Maiden, and Tim (Ripper) Owens, lead singer of KK’s Priest.
He is looking forward to getting back to normal and back on stage.
“As long as my heart is beating, I will continue to play music,” Italiano concluded.