Healthy You - Every Day

Jim Scocozza Puts his Trust in the Hands of LVH–Pocono's Lifesaving Cardiac Care Team

“I could have had a very different outcome, but I listened to my heart, and because of the team at LVH–Pocono I feel absolutely fantastic."


In March 2018, Jim Scocozza was gearing up for the busy season at Chestnut Hill Nursery, his Pocono-area landscape design build firm, but he didn’t have his usual energy. In fact, he’d felt sluggish for months.

Scocozza was active and fit, but with his family’s history of heart disease he finally agreed to see cardiologist Anil Gupta, MD, with LVPG Cardiology. A cardiac stress test showed his heart wasn’t receiving enough oxygen-rich blood, indicating the possibility of coronary artery disease. Gupta suggested he schedule a cardiac catheterization to determine if fatty deposits called plaques were clogging his heart arteries (a condition called atherosclerosis).

“I knew I had to pay attention to this,” says the 66-year-old Kunkletown, Pa., resident. “But I was concerned about being away from work, so I asked Dr. Gupta to treat it with medication until things calmed down and I had more time to explore the problem.”

Seaside SOS

In August, with the busy season over, Scocozza and his wife, Deb, headed to the Jersey shore for some rest and relaxation. As they strolled on the beach one day, he felt an uncomfortable compression in his chest. The couple returned to their beach chairs so he could rest, and later set out again for another walk. But the symptoms immediately returned.

“I knew something had changed, and I needed to see Dr. Gupta,” Scocozza says. “We went home the next day, and I scheduled a catheterization.”

Change of plans

On the morning of Aug. 17, he and Deb arrived at Lehigh Valley Hospital (LVH)–Pocono for what they assumed would be a brief procedure. The plan was to look for blockages in his heart arteries using a long, narrow catheter tube and place stents if needed to open the vessels and improve blood flow. Scocozza hoped to return to work that afternoon.

But when Gupta entered his room afterward he looked concerned. Results showed a significant blockage in his left main artery, which can lead to a deadly “widowmaker” heart attack. Gupta recommended immediate heart bypass surgery to create a detour around the blocked artery.

“I had appointments lined up and my phone was ringing – I thought, I can’t do this now,” Scocozza says. “But Dr. Gupta looked at me with a serious expression and said, ‘It’s really bad. You need surgery. Now.’”

Deciding point

The couple immediately met with cardiothoracic surgeon Kelly M. Wanamaker, MD, with LVPG Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery, who was on-call that day. She carefully reviewed the seriousness of the findings with them and answered their questions. The Scocozzas learned that LVH–Pocono is the only hospital in Monroe County licensed to treat all serious heart conditions, and can perform open heart surgery. As a result, the ESSA Heart and Vascular Center makes quality heart care more convenient for patients and their families closer to home.

The couple asked for time to talk privately. They considered delaying surgery and researching other hospitals first, but quickly came to the same conclusion. “I knew about Lehigh Valley Health Network’s good reputation, and after meeting with Dr. Gupta and Dr. Wanamaker, I decided to put my faith in them and have surgery at LVH–Pocono,” Scocozza says.

Rehab and recovery

Three days after surgery, Scocozza went home and eagerly entered LVH– Pocono’s cardiac rehab program to help him regain his full strength.

“Individuals who attend 36 rehab sessions have a 47 percent lower risk for death and a 31 percent lower risk for heart attack,” says Linda Breen, clinical supervisor of cardiac rehabilitation at LVH–Pocono. “We work hand in hand with patients’ cardiologists developing an individual treatment plan to maximize their recovery.”

Scocozza credits the rehab staff’s dedication, the lighthearted atmosphere and camaraderie with other patients for his remarkable recovery.

“I could have had a very different outcome, but I listened to my heart, and because of the team at LVH– Pocono I feel absolutely fantastic today,” he says. “It’s like I’m 10 or 20 years younger. I’m looking forward to many extended road trips this summer with my wonderful wife.”

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