Memorial Hermann doctors save Santa’s helper just in time for Christmas

Professional Santa, Gary Dellacroce, from McAllen, Texas arrived at Memorial Hermann in early 2022 for a second opinion on congestive heart failure.

“Things just go slow in a smaller town. You don’t have the luxury of having this fabulous hospital, and all this high-tech equipment. So, we wanted to come for a second opinion, and he was, his heart was very sick,” his wife Ann said.

It was worse than they imagined.

“Within seconds, he stopped breathing in front of me, so I immediately started CPR, which thank God I was there, right then, there was not a second delay,” Dr. Brittany Owens said. “I realized the only way to help him in the short term would be to put him on full cardiopulmonary bypass life-support, so ECMO.

The Dellacroces said friends and family around the world were praying for Gary to recover.

He required a lot of medical care including stents, a pacemaker, and months in rehab at TIRR. He lost 115 pounds throughout the ordeal but is getting stronger daily, and he will be home for the holidays.

Dr. Owens said there were signs that his health was deteriorating and wants more people to know the signs of congestive heart failure:

  • Congested lungs - Fluid-filled lungs resulting in shortness of breath, difficulty lying down
  • Fluid and water retention - swollen ankles, legs, and abdomen (body swelling), weight gain
  • Reduced blood supply to vital organs - Results in dizziness, tiredness, weakness, and confusion