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Trouble in paradise: Three heartwarming stories of trial and resilience in Hawaii


Baldrige-award-winning hospital Adventist Health Castle is located on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, a paradise of lush foliage, diverse cultures and world-famous beaches. But even in paradise, cardiac emergencies can happen.

When the health of their patient is at risk, Adventist Health Castle care providers stop at nothing to see their treatment through—until their patients are back to doing what they love. Here are three Heart Month stories that will definitely warm your puʻuwai.

A fresh start for this heart

JoAnn Zbin has no recollection of the ambulance ride to Adventist Health Castle’s emergency room last June. The 41-year-old mother of three was at her local gym, and she had just finished working out with dumbbells when she collapsed under full cardiac arrest.

JoAnn’s father died of a heart attack at age 68, but she had no prior symptoms.

Fortunately, an alert trainer was nearby, and a nurse taking a yoga class began administering CPR. Twice they used the gym’s portable defibrillator to restart her heart while awaiting the ambulance.

At Castle, JoAnn had two stents implanted by Maria Markarian, D.O., FACC, a specialist in interventional cardiology. “That woman saved my life,” says Zbin, who spent three days in the hospital. She is also grateful to Roman Cortez, M.D., a Castle hospitalist and family friend. “He was there for my husband at that difficult time.”

With the help of Castle’s cardiac rehab team, JoAnn set out to regain her strength. Today, she has enlisted the personal trainer who came to her aid last June. Besides her gym training, she enjoys golf, swimming and yoga, and she enrolled in a nutrition program to improve her eating habits. She wants to be sure she’s around for her husband, Joe; their twin boys, Conrad and Joseph; and daughter Vivian.

JoAnn remembers the compassion she experienced at Adventist Health Castle. “Everyone was kind and loving,” she says. “I really felt cared for, and everyone offered great support for my family. Now it’s my favorite hospital.”

JoAnn Zbin

JoAnn enjoys a round of golf as part of her healthy lifestyle post-cardiac arrest

A heart for family

When Bill Creps’ mother had a bad fall in 2016 and fractured her vertebrae, he and his wife, Janey, moved from Minnesota back to his hometown of Kailua, Hawaii, to help during his mother’s recovery.

Later that year, Bill experienced health issues of his own. “It became obvious that I had breathing difficulties,” he says, recalling having to stop several times to catch his breath during his trip to Volcanoes National Park.

He scheduled a checkup with his primary care doctor, and she referred him to specialists with Adventist Health Castle: Takkin Lo, M.D., a pulmonologist, and Albert Ing, M.D., a cardiologist. After a series of tests and medical evaluations, they discovered that Bill had experienced a mild heart attack that he never knew about.

An echocardiogram provided a clear picture of the problem. “It showed my heart was functioning at only 50 percent of capacity and not pumping enough blood to my lungs,” Bill says.

After several tests were performed, Bill met with cardiac surgeon Henry Louie, M.D., who recommended a triple coronary bypass surgery.

“Dr. Louie explained everything to my wife and me about the procedure and what to expect,” says Bill. He was impressed with Dr. Louie, and he liked the convenience of Adventist Health Castle, including the ease of making appointments without long waits.

After his surgery and five days of recovery in the intensive care unit, Bill’ breathing problems were diminished and he was able to go home.

Post-surgery, Bill attended cardiac rehab twice weekly to work out on the stationary bike, rowing machine and other equipment to strengthen his heart under the supervision of the rehab staff. He now knows how far to push himself and when to ease off. He also knows his heart will be ready to take on new challenges, like cycling and stand-up paddle boarding.

As often is the case, there is a silver lining to the medical issues that faced Bill Creps and his mother. Moving back to Hawaii has been a wonderful opportunity for him to get reacquainted with his family, including his sister and brother. And his mother’s yard has benefited from the new landscaping that has kept him busy over the past year.

Bill Crepes

Bill spends time landscaping his mother’s yard when he isn’t cycling or stand-up paddle boarding.

Forever grateful

At Steven Oato’s routine physical, his wife, Dagmar, told his physician about Steven’s lack of energy, leg cramps and trouble breathing. “I ratted him out to the doctor,” Dagmar confesses. It’s a good thing she did: An angiogram diagnosed a 90 percent blockage.

“We asked around to find a good physician who could treat the aneurysm,” Dagmar recalls. Their son recommended Henry Louie, M.D., FACS, a cardiothoracic surgeon.

“It was a major surgery and the operation went flawlessly,“ Dagmar says. “Dr. Louie did a terrific job.” What no one could have known was that Steven was allergic to the intravenous beta blocker drugs that were administered to lower his blood pressure. He had difficulty breathing, so his doctors put him on oxygen while they investigated and discovered the allergy.

Steven spent a week recovering from his surgery in the intensive care unit (ICU). “Anything I needed, the ICU staff was there 24/7,” says Dagmar. “We went home, and everything was wonderful.”

The next day, Steven and Dagmar had a 3 p.m. appointment with a home health nurse, Ryan Hara. Ryan was running ahead of schedule, and called to ask if he could come an hour earlier.

“I swear he is an angel,” Dagmar says. “When he arrived, he looked at my husband and asked if he was OK. Steven started to fall off the chair, and Ryan told me to call 911, then started CPR. My husband had no pulse, no heartbeat and was not breathing for a minute. Ryan got him breathing again, but he was still unconscious when the ambulance arrived.”

They returned to Adventist Health Castle’s emergency room, where both Dr. Louie and cardiologist Albert Ing, M.D., were waiting for them. They found that a central artery in Steven’s heart wasn’t working, so they put in a stent to open the artery.

Just three months after Steven’s cardiac emergencies, he was back to his yard work and already making plans for his favorite activity: fishing.

The experience left Dagmar forever grateful for all that Castle did for her and Steven.

“Dr. Louie not only is a gifted surgeon, but he’s kind and caring and makes you feel like you’re his only patient,” says Dagmar, adding praise for the whole staff at Adventist Health Castle. “Without the top-notch, skilled care he received, my husband would not have survived. So many wonderful people came together for us and comforted me through a scary period. I’d take Castle anytime. They are absolutely the best.”

Steven and Dagmar Oato

Steven and Dagmar enjoy a trip to the beach where Steven hones his fishing skills.