Beating the Heart Failure Odds
Feb 03, 2019 Cedars-Sinai Staff
In August 2015, at age 23, Garik Aleksandryan had his first heart attack. Doctors in the ER he went to were baffled—he seemed like a normal, healthy young guy.
A cardiologist put Garik on a variety of trial medications, but none of them worked.
"I'm surprised you're still alive."
"A lot of them made me feel worse, and I felt like I needed to go back to the hospital," he said.
In April 2017, less than 2 years after his first heart attack, he had another heart attack.
This time, he came to Cedars-Sinai for answers and met cardiologist and transplant surgeon Dr. Ernst Schwarz. He was diagnosed with systolic congestive heart failure.
Dr. Schwarz told him his situation was dire, and he would most likely need a heart transplant.
"He said, 'If you didn't come to the hospital right now, you would have literally died in minutes. I'm surprised you're still alive,'" Garik remembers.
A potential new path
Before starting down the road to a transplant, Dr. Schwarz wanted to try treating Garik's condition with a procedure—an intravenous infusion of immunoglobulin—which boosted his immune system. Afterwards, Garik started to feel better.
Garik's recovery meant that he'd had a treatable viral infection all along. Under his new treatment plan, Garik began regaining strength as he kept up with regular treatments and started down a path back towards a normal life.
"After a heart attack, your heart can never be 100% healthy again," Garik says. "But I give all the credit to Dr. Schwarz and God, of course. Dr. Schwarz isn't just a great doctor—he's a really great guy."
A brighter future ahead
After 18 months of treatment, Garik came in for an appointment in November 2018 and got some exciting news: His heart had recovered and he no longer needed treatment or a heart transplant.
"I came back to get some results and Dr. Schwarz told me, 'It's astonishing. You're as good as you're going to get. You don't need to come back to see me regularly anymore,'" Garik recalls.
"I've met other young patients with heart conditions—some better, some worse. A lot of them don't know how to cope with it."
He hopes that his recovery can bring hope to others.
"I've met other young patients with heart conditions—some better, some worse. A lot of them don't know how to cope with it. So the more people talk about this, the more people can understand that this is a real-life occurrence," he says.
Now that he's graduated from school and is feeling healthy, Garik is back to playing sports, working out, and pursuing a career in the medical field.
"I really want to give my appreciation to Dr. Schwarz and Cedars-Sinai. When I was going through this experience, I isolated myself and was mentally struggling," Garik says. "Cedars-Sinai staff, my family, and my friends really helped me push myself and beat the odds with my treatment and diagnosis."