One patient, three life-saving heart surgeries: Steve Pino enjoys family life thanks to the Ottawa Heart Institute
OTTAWA -- Steve Pino was just 17 when he met 14-year-old Rosa, the girl who would steal and care for his heart for a lifetime.
"We’ve been together 47 years. We married when I was 18 and he was 21," said Rosa.
Just three years after their wedding, Steve became unwell.
"I started feeling a lot of pain in my stomach," he said
"Even for him, picking up a broom, sweeping a floor, he could collapse," said Rosa.
Steve would need an operation at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute.
"In 1979, he had his first heart surgery with Dr. (Wilbert) Keon," said Rosa.
Steve received a new heart valve and felt well again. He and Rosa had children, worked and raised a family. Eighteen years later, however, his valve had worn out. Again, he turned to the Ottawa Heart Institute for surgery.
"You helped us out once and we believe you’re going to do it again. And sure enough they did," said a grateful Rosa.
For a second time, life began again for the Pino’s. For the next two decades, their family grew. They were blessed with grandchildren and a thriving business "Simply Biscotti." Life, like their menu items, was sweet and delicious. And then, the unimaginable.
"Nothing ever prepared me for Jan. 13, 2019," said Rosa.
Returning from a trip to the grocery store, Steve felt breathless.
"All of a sudden my heart felt like it was going crazy," he said.
"Oh, it just felt like it was coming out of his chest," Rosa agreed.
Steve’s heart was racing; 215 beats per minute. 21-years after his second surgery, Steve would brace for a third.
"That day was the toughest thing myself, my girls and granddaughters could have endured," said Rosa, tears filling her eyes.
One of Steve’s heart valves would be repaired, a second needed to be replaced. Steve’s heart was so swollen post-surgery; doctors left his heart open for several days. In an induced coma, the family prayed for his recovery.
"I said It’s just up to God," said Rosa. "Please help him. I can’t lose him now."
"I truly didn’t believe he was coming home," said the Pino’s daughter, Patrizia Macchione.
"When we said good luck to him before the surgery, it was more like we were saying goodbye."
In time, however, Steve did recover. Rosa said staff at the Heart Institute called her husband the "miracle man."
"A miracle that would not have been a miracle had it not been for the team at the Ottawa Heart Institute."
It seems Steve had a lot to live for. He was able to walk his youngest daughter down the aisle, and recently welcomed his newborn granddaughter.
"The Heart Institute is the greatest hospital in the world. Nobody can beat the Heart Institute," said a grateful Steve.
His family shares his sentiments.
"He’s here," said Patrizia, wiping a tear from her eye. "He’s still here."
"He’s the greatest husband, father and grandfather in the world. He’s not a big teddy bear. He’s a tiny, gentle, skinny teddy bear. He’s here for everything still to come," she said.
And Rosa, Steve’s bride of almost half a century, is excited to share many more wonderful years with the love of her life.
"We’re here together and we’re still living our life."
As Rosa reaches for Steve’s hand she asks him "Would you do it all again?"
"Yes, I would," Steve says with a grin. "I’m very happy."