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Helping Sam continue to play some of life’s most important positions—husband, dad and grandpa

He received top heart care that’s in a league of its own

Three generations of a family smile and wear Yankees shirts in a living room.
The Hymowitz family loves the Yankees.

As the patriarch of his close-knit family, Sam Hymowitz is adored by his wife Harriet of 48 years, two daughters and four grandsons.

 “My dad is our family’s rock,” says Sam’s daughter Maggie. “He goes to all of his grandsons’ baseball games, tennis matches, piano recitals, you name it. He’s also a diehard Yankees fan and loves taking the boys to games. He’s had such an influence on them; they’re on another level of fandom.”

With a family history of heart disease—his dad had a heart attack at age 42 and his grandfather passed away at age 60 from coronary heart disease—Sam makes it a point to take good care of himself, so he can be there for his family for a long time to come. Years ago he lost 60 pounds—and kept it off. He eats well, works out three days a week and doesn’t smoke.

“At 77 years old, I felt like I was at the peak of my health,” says Sam.

A man in his late 70s poses with his four school-aged grandsons. Everyone is wearing blue.
Sam and his grandsons, ages 5, 7, 8 and 11.

So on a sun-filled summer day, when Dr. Jay Kugler noted a slight change in Sam’s EKG during his routine annual physical, Sam wasn’t concerned. But Dr. Kugler had a hunch. He sent him for an echocardiogram and a stress test—both of which indicated everything was fine. Still, Dr. Kugler wasn’t satisfied. He referred Sam to interventional cardiologist Dr. Barry Kaplan for an angiogram, a diagnostic test in which dye is injected into the arteries making them visible on an X-ray.

Dr. Kugler’s tenacity likely saved Sam’s life. The angiogram revealed that all four of Sam’s coronary arteries were 100 percent blocked—and he would need emergency quadruple bypass surgery. “It was a bizarre diagnosis to get,” says Sam. “I was totally symptom-free.”

Sam was admitted to the Sandra Atlas Bass Heart Hospital at North Shore University Hospital—home to one of New York’s largest and most successful cardiac programs. There he was told he’d be treated in the morning by Dr. Alan Hartman, senior vice president and executive director of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery at Northwell Health.

“The night before my dad’s surgery, he RSVPed to my 7-year-old son’s birthday party,” recalls Maggie tearfully. “He wanted him to know that everything was going to be okay. I was worried, but everyone assured me that my dad was in the best hands possible at the Heart Hospital.”

A man and woman in their 70s sit on a bench outside with their three grandsons.
Sam and his wife Harriet (left) spend as much time as possible with their grandkids.

During the open heart procedure, Dr. Hartman and his team used a minimally invasive technique to harvest a vein from Sam’s leg. (Northwell doctors use minimally invasive endovascular harvest techniques as the standard of care for every bypass patient.) The vein was then used to create a graft, effectively restoring blood flow to the heart.

“Dr. Hartman’s skill is unquestionable,” says Sam. “And his empathy and bedside manner with patients and families is just amazing.”

“I told Dr. Hartman he makes me want to be a better doctor,” adds Maggie, a Northwell ophthalmologist. “He’s just such a kind and caring person and gives you all the time you need to ask questions and feel comfortable. That’s a big deal for a surgeon. We were really lucky.”

Partly because Sam had no damage to his heart muscles (thanks to his healthy lifestyle), his recovery was quick and smooth. He was in the cardiothoracic ICU for less than a day, and then spent three days on a regular floor.

“You can just tell how well the entire cardiothoracic department works,” says Maggie. “Everyone is happy and collaborates so well together. They all really care about their patients.”

After Sam was discharged, a nurse and physical therapist visited him at home several times to check on his progress—part of Northwell's Follow Your Heart program. Now he’s participating in Northwell’s cardiac rehabilitation program and working his way back up to his previous exercise threshold. “I feel like everything is moving forward, and I’m getting back to the old me,” says Sam.

“My family feels very fortunate,” adds Maggie with a smile. “We’re looking forward to spending many more years with my dad.”

Two smiling, middle-aged, blonde women hug their father, who's also smiling.
Sam and his daughters, Maggie (left) and Erika (right).