Second Lease on Life

Touro Patient Looks Back After Surviving Massive Heart Attack

Kristin Fletcher

The week before Thanksgiving 2012, Timothy Darby was getting ready to meet up with a few friends from out of town when he suddenly experienced a massive heart attack. Thankfully, a friend was with him when he went into cardiac arrest. “I came into the bedroom sweating, and I told her to call 9-1-1,” says Darby. “I was incapacitated.”

At the time, Darby was just 38 years old with no family history of heart problems and no identifiable risk factors for a heart attack. “I was the first one in my family to have a heart attack,” says Darby. Darby flatlined at his house. “I was told a team of firefighters carried equipment up three flights of stairs to resuscitate me,” says Darby. The ambulance quickly followed and brought Darby to Touro Infirmary’s Emergency Department. Darby flatlined two more times, once in the ambulance and at the hospital.

Miracle Worker

Touro Interventional Cardiologist Thanh Nguyen, M.D., performed an emergent coronary angiogram shortly after Darby arrived. The angiogram discovered that Darby was experiencing a ventricular fibrillation arrest and cardiogenic shock. His condition did not look promising when he arrived, but Dr. Nguyen was committed to saving his life.

Darby had complete occlusion of his Left Anterior Descending (LAD) artery. “I had what you will call a widow maker,” says Darby.  The LAD or widow maker is an essential coronary artery, which can result in death if blocked. Darby had one stent placed in his LAD artery, which is used to hold the artery open to improve blood flow to the heart. He also received an intra-aortic balloon pump (IABP), which helps the heart to pump blood.

Darby was transferred to the ICU and underwent an induced hypothermia protocol. The protocol was used to improve his neurological outcome following a cardiac arrest. Patients who sustained a cardiac arrest are at risk for neurologic injury due to lack of blood flow to the brain. To reduce this risk, Darby was wrapped in a cooling blanket to reduce his core body temperature to 32 or 34 degrees Celsius. “I was unconscious in the ICU for seventeen days, and I heard the horror stories from my family and friends waiting for me to wake up,” says Darby.

Looking Back with A Grateful Heart

Fortunately, Darby regained consciousness with no neurological problems and was completely aware of his surroundings. He was transferred to recovery where he met Dr. Nguyen. “I was exhausted from the countless people visiting my room and wanted to rest,” says Darby. When Dr. Nguyen entered the room, Darby asked “Who are you?”, and Dr. Nguyen responded with “the person who performed your surgery.” Darby was ecstatic to meet the man who saved his life. “Dr. Nguyen thinks of me as his miracle, but I consider him to be my miracle,” says Darby.

Darby has been a patient of Dr. Nguyen for five years. “Dr. Nguyen is compassionate, and he is always asking about my mom. They developed a great rapport during those seventeen days when I was in the ICU. He was there to provide comfort to her while she waited. He is truly a genuine person,” says Darby. “I have also developed a great relationship with Dr. Nguyen and his team. You can tell they love and respect what they are doing.”

Since his heart attack, Darby has become more focused on his health and wellness. He consistently monitors his cholesterol and blood pressure. He has also incorporated regular cardiovascular activity into his life and eats a healthy diet. Darby adds, “I am lucky to have had the right people with me at the right place and right time. This experience has been rewarding, despite it being horrific.”

Keep Your Heart Beating Strong

A little knowledge regarding your important health numbers (cholesterol, blood pressure, glucose and weight/BMI) can go a long way in helping keep you healthy. Treatable risk factors for heart disease and other health problems are monitored by seeing a physician regularly to monitor these numbers and your total wellness.

Learn more about Heart and Vascular Care at Touro at or schedule an appointment with a Touro cardiologist today by calling 504-897-7777 or visiting

8 Tips for a Healthy Heart

Thanh Nguyen, M.D.

Life is a balancing act that requires us to juggle your career, family and friends among many other roles and responsibilities. However, your health should never take a backseat in life and caring for your heart should be a top priority. Cardiovascular disease is the top cause of death in the United States for both men and women. Living heart healthy can reduce your risk for heart disease by as much as 80 percent. There are eight easy ways to help control your risk of developing heart disease.

  1. Quit smoking

Cigarette smokers have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Smoking damages your circulatory system. It also increases your risk for coronary heart disease, hardened arteries, aneurysm and blood clots. Smoking can also reduce your good cholesterol (HDL) and your lung capacity.

  1. Get active

Regular, moderate exercise can improve your health and your quality of life. The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day, five times per week. Physical activity lowers your risks for heart disease, stroke and diabetes.


  1. Manage stress

Long-term stress can cause an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, which can damage the artery walls. Stress affects each of us in different ways. It’s important to understand what causes your stress and how to reduce it. The American Heart Association recommends setting reasonable goals, such as daily relaxation or daily positive self-talk.

  1. Sleep more

Studies show that poor sleep quality can increase your risk of high blood pressure, arrhythmia and heart disease.  The American Heart Association recommends adults get six to eight hours of sleep per night. You can improve your quality of sleep by developing an evening routine, exercising and drinking less caffeine.


  1. Eat a heart-healthy diet

You should be eating a balanced, healthy meal with plenty of nutrients from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meat and low-fat dairy. The American Heart Association recommends the following consumption of foods:

  • Fruits and vegetables: At least 4.5 cups a day
  • Fish (preferably oily fish, like salmon): At least two 3.5-ounce servings a week
  • Fiber-rich whole grains: At least three 1-ounce servings a day
  • Nuts, legumes and seeds: At least 4 servings a week, opting for unsalted varieties whenever possible

It is also important to minimize sodium and saturated fats, and to avoid processed meats and sugary drinks to maintain a heart-healthy diet.

  1. Control diabetes

Diabetes is a condition that causes blood sugar to rise to dangerous levels. According to the American Heart Association, at least 68% of people with diabetes aged 65 and older die of some form of heart disease and 16% die from stroke. However, diabetes is treatable and often preventable with healthy lifestyle choices.

Measuring blood sugar

  1. Control high blood pressure and cholesterol

Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in all cells of the body. Our bodies use cholesterol to make cell membranes and certain hormones.  Your body creates all the cholesterol you need and circulates it through the blood. But cholesterol is also found in foods from animal sources, such as meat, poultry and full-fat dairy products. Your liver produces more cholesterol when you eat a diet high in saturated and trans fats.

Excess cholesterol can form plaque between layers of artery walls, making it harder for your heart to circulate blood. Plaque buildup can create blood clots, which can cause a stroke or heart attack. It’s important to keep your bad cholesterol (LDL) low, which forms plaque in your vein and arteries, and your good cholesterol (HDL) high.

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, means the blood running through your arteries flow with too much force and puts pressure on your arteries, stretching them past their healthy limit and causing microscopic tears. Our body begins to heal these tears with scar tissue. However, the scar tissue traps plaque and white blood cells which can form into blockages, blood clots, and hardened, weakened arteries. It’s important to keep your blood pressure within healthy range, which will reduce the strain on your heart, arteries, and kidneys.

  1. Drink less alcohol

Heavy drinking can cause a spike in your blood pressure, which can lead to heart failure and stroke. It’s important to drink in moderation. According to the U.S Dietary Guidelines for Americans, moderate drinking is one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. Also, consider not drinking at all and opting for healthy non-alcoholic beverages such as mineral water with fresh lime or orange.

SOURCE: American Heart Association

Click here to learn more about heart healthy habits in Touro’s online health library.

Heart Health Panel: Lunch and Learn


Join Cardiologist Thanh Nguyen, Dietitian Liz Cabrera and Exercise Physiologist Robert Banta to learn how you can live heart healthy and prevent or successfully manage heart disease.

The Q & A style event will take place on Thursday, February 16 from 12pm to 1pm in Touro’s Presidents Room on the 2nd Floor of the hospital.

Registration is required.
>> CLICK HERE to register online, or call 504-897-8500.

nguyen, Thanh 1Dr. Nguyen grew up in Baton Rouge and is Vietnam-born. He chose to specialize in cardiology for its emphasis on physiology and the instant impact that cardiovascular procedures can have. As an interventional cardiologist, he performs both minor surgical procedures, such as pacemaker insertion to regulate irregular heart rhythms, and nonsurgical procedures, including balloon angioplasties and stent placement to improve blood flow to and from the heart. 

He supervises cardiology fellows at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center. To become interventional cardiologists, fellows must complete one to two years of training in addition to their three-year general cardiology fellowships.

Love Your Heart

Liz Cabrera, RD, CSO, LDN, CNSC

Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women? The good news is that some forms of heart disease can be prevented by making healthier lifestyle choices and managing preexisting health conditions.


The heart works nonstop for your whole life –Show it some TLC!

  • Engage in regular aerobic activity for at least 30 minutes, 5 times a week. Daily physical activity can increase length and quality of life. Start by taking the stairs instead of the elevator and making a 10 minute walk a part of your daily routine.
  • Achieve and maintain a healthy weight. A BMI greater than 30 is a risk factor for heart disease especially if the excess weight is at your waist- “apple shape”.  Watch your portion sizes and avoid drinking your calories. By cutting out sugar sweeten beverages such as soft drinks, iced tea and frozen coffees, you can save 100 calories per day, which translates to a 10 pound weight loss per year.
  • Eat Better! Focus on avoiding processed foods, red meat, salt and sugary foods such as candy and desserts. Challenge yourself to increase your fruit and veggie intake, include whole grains, plant based proteins such as legumes and nuts. Also, consume lean protein such as poultry, fish and non-fat dairy products.  Opt for healthy cooking techniques such as grilling, poaching and baking; use healthy oils sparingly.

Friends enjoying lunch

Is Chocolate Heart Healthy?

Having chocolate on Valentine’s Day is a tradition. But is chocolate good for your heart?  Chocolate and cardiovascular health has gotten a lot of media attention. The cocoa bean is rich in flavonoids-an antioxidant.  When eaten in moderation as part of a healthy diet, certain kinds of chocolate and cocoa may help lower blood pressure and LDL (the “bad” cholesterol). Not all chocolate is created equal! Look for dark chocolate and minimally processed cocoa powder. Limiting your portion to about 1.5 ounces ensure you will reap the health benefit without adding too many calories.

Cherry Heart Smart Cookies

1.5 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1/3 cup)

1.5 ounces whole-wheat flour (about 1/3 cup)

1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

1 cup dried cherries

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 large egg, lightly beaten

3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

Cooking spray


  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Weigh or lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours and next 3 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl; stir with a whisk.
  3. Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat; add brown sugar, stirring until smooth. Add sugar mixture to flour mixture; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add cherries, vanilla, and egg; beat until combined. Fold in chocolate. Drop dough with a tablespoon by 2 inches apart onto baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 12 minutes. Cool on pans 3 minutes or until almost firm. Remove cookies from pans; cool on wire racks.

Source: Cooking Light

Women’s Health and Wine Tasting Event

Join Touro Infirmary for a Ladies Night Out & Wine Tasting! Learn about women’s wellness, heart health, nutrition and enter to win raffle prizes. Plus, mingle with some of your favorite Touro physicians. Must be 21 or older to attend. $10 per person includes wine tasting and heavy hors d’oeuvres. 

>> CLICK HERE to register or call (504) 897-8500. 

Tickets may also be purchased at time of event.

Cabrera, LizLiz Cabrera, RD, CSO, LDN, CNSC, is the Lead Clinical Dietician for Touro Infirmary with over 25 years experience. Liz has advanced education and extensive experience in nutrition for a broad range of health conditions for which she provides nutrition support. Liz provides comprehensive nutrition care for inpatient and outpatient departments at Touro. In addition, Liz leads monthly healthy lifestyles community seminars and a nutrition after cancer cooking class.

Salt and Your Health

The Grainy Truth about Salt

Thanh Nguyen, M.D.

Is Salt Really Bad For You? Chances are you have heard that salt can lead to a host of cardiovascular problems from heart attacks to strokes. However, salt is actually an essential component to your healthy body. There are plenty of benefits to reap from salt, such as balancing your fluids and electrolytes. The real problem is consuming too much salt.

Excess salt can cause your body to retain fluids and create hormonal changes within your kidneys. Moreover, excess salt can cause blockages in your arteries that can lead to heart attacks, strokes or amputations. But monitoring your salt does not have to be stressful. It’s very important to find a happy medium in your salt consumption.

Continue reading

Heart Healthy Eating and Living

What is heart-healthy eating?

Thanh Nguyen, M.D.

A diet high in fat and cholesterol may contribute to the development of heart disease in adulthood. A heart-healthy diet may help prevent or treat high blood cholesterol levels.

The American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition recommends that healthy children age 2 and older follow a diet low in fat (30% of calories from fat). These are the same recommendations for healthy adults. A diet high in fat, especially saturated fat, may increase your child’s risk for heart disease and obesity in adulthood.

It is important to teach your child about healthy eating so that he or she can make healthy food choices as adults.

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Women and Heart Health

Viviana Falco, M.D.

Did you know that cardiovascular disease, stroke and heart attack take the life of one American woman every minute? That is almost 400,000 women per year, and kills more women each year than all forms of cancers combined. In fact, heart disease is the number one killer in Louisiana and America.

February is American Heart Month and it is important for women to understand that heart disease does not only impact men. Since heart disease is often silent and not easy togo red for women detect, it is essential to recognize key warning signs to reduce your risk and keep your heart healthy. Remember, it is never too late to change your habits.


  • Pain or discomfort in the center of the chest.
  • Vomiting, nausea and abdominal pain.
  • A sensation of fullness or squeezing.
  • Feeling unusually fatigued or weak.
  • Trouble breathing or shortness of breath.
  • Pain, discomfort of numbness through the jaw, neck, back or arms.


  • Stop smoking.
  • Eat a heart healthy diet, low in saturated fats and salts, and high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains
  • Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Know and monitor your numbers: Blood pressure, cholesterol (total, HDL, LDL, and triglycerides) and blood sugar levels.
  • Get a restful sleep.
  • Manage chronic stress.


First and foremost, do not wait to get help! Women who experience one or more symptoms are urged to call 911 immediately and it is advised to chew an aspirin to help prevent further clotting.


No, heart disease can sneak up at any age. Women need to pay careful attention to heart disease risk factors at any age, and especially those with a family history of heart disease.

According to the American Heart Association, more than one in three women live with cardiovascular disease. The bright side is that the Go Red for women campaign is fighting to change that number. Learn more about prevention and how to live a heart healthy life at

Falco Head Shot 2 (2)Dr. Viviana Falco is a cardiologist with Touro’s Crescent City Cardiovascular Associates located on Prytania Street in Uptown New Orleans. Dr. Falco completed her undergraduate degree at the University of New Orleans and her medical degree at Louisiana State University Medical School. She is board certified in a number of imaging methods, including echocardiography, nuclear cardiology, and cardiac computed tomography (CT). In addition, she obtained level 2 certification in Cardiac Magnetic Resonance (CMR) Imaging from Washington University’s School of Medicine in St. Louis. These imaging methods use a computer to create images of the heart as it is beating, allowing her to take a closer look at the heart and major blood vessels with little risk to her patients. Dr. Falco is also a member of the American Heart Association, the American College of Cardiology, the Society of Cardiovascular Computed Tomography and the New Orleans Chapter of the Louisiana State Medical Society.

>> Click here for details on Dr. Falco’s practice.