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Dignity Health Glendale crowns a ‘royal court’ of heart patients

For 23 years, Dignity Health Glendale Memorial Hospital has recognized patients in its care who’ve shown a commitment to changing their lifestyle after experiencing a major cardiac condition.

On Thursday, five patients chosen by the hospital’s cardiac fitness staff earned the title of King or Queen of Hearts for their continued lifestyle changes as part of their cardiac recovery efforts, such as years of sticking to a specific diet and exercise.

After completing a 12-month cardiac rehab program, they committed to working out at the cardiac fitness center at least three times a week.

The event, organized by Michelle Galanti, director of cardiology and in-patient transportation, included a morning of free cardiac screenings and educational booths as well as lectures about prevention and treatment.

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About 50 people watched as each awardee was crowned at the cardiac fitness center gym shortly after a presentation on the “State of the Heart” by the center’s medical director, Lawrence O’Connor.

This year’s Junior Queen awardee, Pam Codinera, was only 49 in 2014 when she began to first feel chest discomfort. After being initially cleared by doctors, she returned about a month later and was found to be having a heart attack.

She had an angioplasty and stent procedure and began rehab at the hospital’s cardiac fitness center. The pain returned in 2016, but it was treated. She has been exercising with the fitness program since early last year.

Mark Seigle, the Junior King, was unable to attend the event but was honored by last year’s awardee. Seigle discovered in 2015 that he had life-threatening heart rhythms. He had an internal defibrillator installed at the hospital and has been committed to exercising with the program since 2016, according to Galanti.

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Senior Queen of Hearts, Linda Carnevale, a Burbank resident, suffered a heart attack while leaving a Glendale train station. Within 90 minutes into her hospital visit, a stent was installed into her right coronary artery.

“I come here [to exercise] three days a week, and, if they were open more days, I’d come here more days,” Carnevale said.

Yervant Kotchounian, the Senior King, discovered he had significant disease in several heart vessels. After recovering from successful open-heart surgery, he began the cardiac fitness program only a month after being discharged from the hospital.

“I had a very sedentary life because, most of the time, I was reading or writing, so this exercise program is the first for me, but, funnily enough, I look forward to it every day, especially to see the [staff’s] smiling faces,” he said.

Michael “Mikey” Russo, 84 and a bartender for 57 years, was crowned the “Young at Heart” honoree.

He began his first cardiac rehab in 1999 after receiving a stent and angioplasty at Glendale Memorial. Recently, a trip to intensive care for pneumonia resulted in the discovery of elevated troponin levels, which indicate a heart injury.

“The doctor says, ‘we’re gonna take out your heart … remember not to play football with it,’” Russo recalled. “They gave me a transplant of the heart and now I’m back here again … This time I’m not going to leave this place.”

jeff.landa@latimes.com

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Twitter: @JeffLanda


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