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    Hadi - Playing the hand nature dealtand winning

    Hadi -
    Hadi - Playing the hand nature dealtand winning

    Every family passes along distinctive traits—green eyes, curly hair, a particular shape of nose. In Hadi’s family, one of those traits is heart disease severe enough to cause heart attacks at early ages. Hadi’s father died from a heart attack at age 49. His brother had one at 56. And Hadi had a heart attack and triple bypass surgery when he was just 54 years old.

    Instead of giving in to an unhappy destiny following his heart attack and surgery, Hadi put his engineer’s mind to work. He had spent a lifetime playing the hand he was dealt and beating the odds to come out on top.  This was another opportunity to do the same, though this time the dealer was genetics.

    Hadi came to the U.S. from Iran, then known as Persia, in 1947, a time when fewer than 2,000 Persians were permanent U.S. residents. If that wasn’t enough to isolate him, he attended college at the University of Texas (UT) in Austin during the era of Jim Crow laws. He recalls being constantly baffled by the choice between “white” or “colored,” since he was neither and both. Marriage and the birth of his first daughter eliminated the problem by moving UT tuition beyond the young father’s budget.

    Instead, he moved north to earn a technical degree from the Illinois Institute of Technology (ITT) before returning to Texas to work. When Hadi heard about a company that had come to town looking for people qualified to work as rocket engineers, he jumped at the chance. He interviewed for a job with Aerojet on a Saturday and was both thrilled to land the job and surprised to find out that it meant reporting to work Monday morning—in Sacramento. 

    Hadi started working at Aerojet in 1956, moving his family, which now included two daughters and a son, to Sacramento within a few months. When he was caught in the layoffs of the late 1960s, he opened his own engineering consulting firm, which he ran until Aerojet hired him back in 1984. 

    Between running his business, raising a family, and enjoying his new-found passion for folk dancing, Hadi was too busy to worry about his heart attack risk or notice any warning signs, until his 1974 heart attack grabbed his attention. The heart attack was his introduction to cardiologist Harvey Matlof, M.D. and the beginning of a patient-doctor partnership that continues to this day. Dr. Matlof and the team of Sutter heart specialists and staff performed tests that confirmed Hadi’s heart attack was not an isolated event; he shared the predisposition to heart disease that had caused his father’s early death.

    After undergoing triple bypass surgery to avert the inevitable next heart attack, Hadi did what he’s always done, he looked at the cards he’d been dealt and came up with a strategy to play the hand. He learned all that he could about heart disease, listened to Dr. Matlof’s advice and dedicated himself to replacing bad habits with good ones. In addition to dancing four or five times a week, he began walking every morning and eating a heart-healthy diet.

    Though it’s been almost 40 years since his heart attack, age and damage from the 1974 attack have taken their toll. In 2007 at 91 years of age Hadi was in the throngs of heart failure finding him short of breath on his morning walks.  He was finding it harder and harder to live his life the way he wanted to, so he went back to Sutter to see if something could be done. Dr. Matlof collaborated with electrophysiologist Subramaniam Krishnan, M.D., a highly esteemed specialist in this field, to figure out what they can do to improve Hadi’s life.

    “Looking at Hadi, you would never guess his age,” Dr. Krishnan said.  “He is a very active, young 91 year old with a completely intact mind, so Dr. Matlof and I agreed we needed to give him everything modern medicine had to offer.”

    Together the two physicians determined that Hadi would benefit from cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) and the protection of a defibrillator.  His heart muscle had gotten to be very weak and was also displaying profound disease in the electrical system.  A device called a biventricular cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) was used to resynchronize the beating of Hadi’s heart.  As an extra precaution, the defibrillator component of the biventricular ICD would be available if needed to shock the heart back to a normal rhythm.

    After a quick recovery from the procedure, Hadi’s heart failure symptoms completely went away.  He got right back to eating right, walking and, of course, dancing. His heart function is now completely normal.

    “Hadi’s response to the treatment was remarkable,” Dr. Matlof said.  “In most heart failure cases with the proper therapy you can expect the patient’s health to go from bad to improved, but to go from bad to completely normal is amazing. As physicians, we have two primary aims in treating patients: (i) to make patients feel better and (ii) to make them live longer. The biventricular defibrillator in Hadi’s situation is allowing us to achieve both”.

    As Hadi looks forward to celebrating his 92nd birthday, he admits to getting tired occasionally. He’s had to cut back to dancing just twice a week, but feel s confident that with the help from his Sutter team of cardiologists, his new defibrillator and heart-smart lifestyle will help him stay active until he gets “old”.


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