Nancy Iafrate’s second chance at life

Heart patient Nancy

It was just like any other day for Nancy Iafrate. The sun was shining as she enjoyed quality time in Gainesville with her family and played with her two young grandkids. Smiles, laughter and joy were contagious during the play date as hours flew by like minutes.

As Nancy lifted 3-year-old Dylan into her arms, she thought nothing of it – until the next day when she experienced the most intense back spasms of her life. Reaching all the way up to her jaw, the severe pain brought her to her knees.

Nancy, 65, lives an active life and is a frequent golf and pickleball player. She retired from education a couple of years ago to unwind and spend time with her family. With both parents still alive and two sons of her own, Nancy’s large and supportive family would be truly instrumental in getting her through what was to come.

When her excruciating back spasms continued for a month, everyone around her began to worry. The spasms never lasted long, but the pain was sharp and extreme. Her primary care doctor recommended physical therapy, but it didn’t help alleviate the pain. Time and time again, the back spasms persisted.

Her husband suggested getting a stress test done, so she made an appointment with Carl Pepine, MD, a UF Health cardiologist. She began to feel chest pains during the test, giving new clues about the cause of her problem.

Although this incident was not too serious, it did raise some red flags. Nancy’s charts revealed her heart activity was irregular, and she recalled seeing a jumbled mess of lines on the report. She was given medication and Pepine ordered a cardiac catherization to measure how well her heart was truly functioning.

The procedure showed Nancy’s had 75% blockage in one of her arteries. This prompted her doctors to insert a stent, a small tube that helps keep the artery open.

Nancy and her family were shocked by the news. She didn’t feel she was having much trouble and even played golf the day before the cardiac catherization. Though she did have a history of high cholesterol and high blood pressure, she figured it was under control with diet and exercise. Never had she considered that the back spasms were actually her heart failing.

The stent procedure successfully cleared the blockage in her arteries and allowed Nancy to live another day. She feels if she had not gone in for the stress test that day, she would have died.

Nancy continues to enjoy life and spending priceless time playing with her grandkids, pain- and worry-free. Now, when she leans over to pick up her grandson, she feels nothing but joy and gratitude for UF Health giving her another chance at life.