St. Francis doctors get gifts from the heart

Registered nurses Dawn Zioba, left, and Lyn Santiago

Registered nurses Dawn Zioba, left, and Lyn Santiago give a Valentine's kiss to Oswaldo Tonarelli at St. Francis Hospital. (Feb. 14, 2013) (Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan)

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Three Long Island heart doctors got some special Valentine's Day gifts this year: back flips, a Broadway melody, a miniature Empire State Building in a snow globe and a bottle of homemade wine -- red, of course.

Each of the gifts presented Thursday to the doctors at St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn had a story behind it.

The back flips -- also somersaults and a rendition of "On My Own" from the musical "Les Miserables" -- for Dr. Sean Levchuck came from multitalented Kristen Murphy, 14, of Bellmore, who had a hole in her heart patched 11 years ago.

The snow globe for Dr. Vinni Jayan came from avid runner Andrea Kantor, 49, of East Islip, who had her operation more than two years ago. Last year, she competed in the annual Empire State Building run and finished the 86-story effort in 19 minutes, 14 seconds -- placing third among female runners.

The wine for Dr. George Petrossian was from Oswaldo Tonarelli, 90, of Freeport, a retired restaurant owner and chef who was escorted into the lobby on the arms of two of the nurses who cared for him.

Tonarelli, who has been gardening and making his own wine since retiring in 1980, said he experienced shortness of breath and had to cut back on his activities before surgery in March 2011 to repair his aortic valve.

"I feel good, I feel good," Tonarelli said Thursday, and his eyes lit up after he got kisses on both cheeks from the nurses.

Kantor, a school psychologist, had an abnormally slow heartbeat before getting a pacemaker in June 2010. Hers was 18 beats per minute -- about a third of the 60-beat rate that's considered a danger signal.

"My doctor said that was not life-sustaining," Kantor said.

Jayan said he was amazed at her running strength. "She has run hundreds of miles. The Island is too short for her," he said.

Murphy's doctor, Levchuck, recalled that earlier in his career he would read the medical charts of young patients from around the turn of the century who "did not have good outcomes" when hospitalized for heart trouble. He'd wonder what lives they could have lived if they survived.

"Look at the beautiful young lady she's become," he said after she back flipped and somersaulted her way to the presentation area.

Asked what she plans to do when she grows up, the teen said: "I want to be on Broadway."

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