This Doctor’s Day, we share a story of compassion and friendship that reminds us of how fragile life can be, and how grateful we all are to have doctors that care about helping others.

By: Krysten Brenlla

Romualdo Segurola, MD, 58, is no stranger to heart health. A practicing cardiovascular surgeon for 20 years, Dr. Segurola has seen patients from around the world with extensive heart disease, and has dedicated his life to helping them.

That’s why when Dr. Segurola, Jackson Health System’s chief of cardiac surgery and medical director of Jackson Heart Institute, felt intense chest pain on the night of January 22, 2022, he knew what he was feeling.

“For some time, I was feeling discomfort – my brother had just passed away, and my health was suffering as I grieved his passing,” Dr. Segurola said. “Months before, I was checking my heart health frequently, but that night, I started feeling chest discomfort, and in a very short period of time, that chest discomfort went south. It was the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life.”

From his home, Dr. Segurola immediately called Alexandre Ferreira, MD, chief of cardiology for Jackson Heart Institute, to let him know his symptoms.

As soon as he received the call, Dr. Ferreira rushed to Jackson Memorial Hospital to care for his colleague and friend.

“It is a strange emotion when you see one of your close colleagues experiencing severe pain,” Dr. Ferreira said. “Dr. Segurola’s case was different than any other patient I’ve treated because when he called me, he already had a diagnosis for himself. He said, ‘my friend, I’m having a heart attack.’”

When he arrived at Jackson Memorial, Dr. Segurola was rushed to the catheterization laboratory for life-saving treatment. Upon evaluation, Dr. Ferreira and his team found that Dr. Segurola suffered a “widowmaker” heart attack, a type of heart attack that involves an obstruction of the left anterior descending artery, one of the most important arteries that provides blood to the heart.

“When all this was happening, the fact that these are my friends and colleagues didn’t matter to me,” Dr. Segurola said. “At that moment, I was just seeing my doctors, and I put all my trust in them to save my life.”

Men walking in the middle of the hospital
Men walking in the middle of the hospital

Dr. Ferreira and his team performed a coronary angiography to identify where the obstruction occurred. Through a blood vessel in the groin area, they advanced a catheter to the level of the heart, and placed a balloon at the site of the lesion.

“Through the catheter, we were able to place a balloon and inflate it, which stretched the vessel open and allowed us to insert a stent, or a metal tube, to prevent the vessel from collapsing again,” Dr. Ferreira explained. “The procedure restores blood flow to the heart muscle, and most patients experience immediate resolution of chest pain.”

After less than an hour, Dr. Segurola’s chest pain was almost completely gone. He spent two days in the intensive care unit before being discharged.

One year later, Dr. Segurola feels healthier and stronger than ever. He exercises regularly, and follows a strict regimen with medication and a healthy diet.

“The fact that we are able to see him every day, ask him how he’s doing, have him continue to provide patient care, and know that he’s doing well – it’s a great joy,” Dr. Ferreira said.

Dr. Segurola continues to do what he loves by helping patients maintain their heart health, and saving their lives from deadly diseases that may lead to a heart attack – an experience he knows all too well.

“Going through something like this, you really understand your patients better, and that’s priceless,” Dr. Segurola said. “I knew that whatever I would have to face, we would have been able to take care of it here, at Jackson, because this is the only true comprehensive program in South Florida.”

“I can’t thank my friends and colleagues at Jackson enough for saving my life.”