Back in the Band

Peter Oliveri worked his way back to life’s happy moments, but it wasn’t easy.

Mr. Oliveri’s problems first surfaced in June 2013.

“I wasn’t feeling well, so I went to the emergency department,” Mr. Oliveri said.

Soon after, Mr. Oliveri was having heart surgery to bypass five plaque-occluded coronary arteries and to repair his calcified aorta, the body’s main artery. During the surgery, a piece of plaque had broken off, causing a stroke in the process.

“I owe a lot to Drs. McGinn and Bekheit,” Mr. Oliveri said, referring to his heart surgeon, Joseph McGinn, MD, chair of surgery at Staten Island University Hospital and director of the Heart Institute, and Soad Bekheit, MD, director of electrophysiology at SIUH.

The two months that followed the surgery and stroke were difficult for Mr. Oliveri.

“I was a bad patient. I made everyone’s life difficult,” Mr. Oliveri said apologetically while speaking to 70 guests at the SIUH Rehabilitation Medicine Department’s recent Reunion Day celebration. “I had weakness in one arm and one leg, garbled speech and could not hold a guitar. The biggest thing that kept me going was getting back in the band.”

During his speech, Mr. Oliveri’s band, The Remnants, provided the background music as he thanked his health care team in a clear voice, mentioning by name Jenny Sanci, his cardiothoracic nurse; Maria Anderson, his speech therapist; Marianne Koshy, his occupational therapist; Mark Mendez, his physical therapist; and Kristin Lambiase, his occupational therapist.

“Despite my bad attitude, they stuck with me,” said Mr. Oliveri, the band’s rhythm guitarist, lead singer and background vocalist. “They wholeheartedly did what they had to do to get me back to health. They saved my life.”

With his beaming wife, Terry, at his side, Mr. Oliveri said, “It really means something to have the kind of support they gave me. They kept telling me, ‘You can get through it,’ and I did.”

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