INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — A retired Independence Police officer was in the best shape of his life, cycling up to one hundred miles a week when doctors suddenly discovered a potentially deadly heart condition. A physical exam saved his life.
He’s sharing his story during February's American Heart Month to encourage others to get to the doctor for routine checkups.
Splashed across the wall of his Independence home— 62-year-old Daniel Luciano’s children are the centerpiece of his life.
“There's my oldest son Dan, and Bob and Marie…these two are Irish twins!" Luciano said.
As a widowed father of eight, he admittedly thinks about his children, ranging in age from 33-17, every waking moment.
"I'm a caregiver. I wanna be around for my kids for as long as I can," Luciano said.
But his perspective on life and love changed drastically.
Following his retirement from the Independence Police force, where he spent 30 years serving and protecting the community, he went for a physical to maintain his license as a recreational pilot.
“During the course of the physical, the doctor told me that I had a heart murmur.”
His flying plans were unfortunately grounded.
Luciano was puzzled by the doctor's discovery.
He ate well, worked out at home regularly, and cycled four to five times a week.
He even had a big cycling trip booked in the near future.
Further testing at the Cleveland Clinic would determine what he thought was a small heart murmur became a much larger issue.
“My cardiologist told me that yours is bad, and you do have a risk of damaging your heart permanently, a heart attack. We need to fix it," Luciano said.
Cleveland Clinic Cardiologist Dr. David Rubin says Luciano's valve was not closing properly, and he had something called "Mitral Valve Regurgitation".
"He is constantly re-pumping the same blood over and over again to get it ejected out of the heart into his body," Rubin said.
What followed was a blur.
Luciano underwent valve repair surgery in an effort to prevent heart failure and death.
The entire time he thought of his children and his beloved late wife, who lost her battle with a debilitating form of cancer 10 years ago.
He said open heart surgery would seem like a walk in the park next to what he witnessed with her.
“I thought of her during the course of mine. I was like, if Lisa can do this for the kids, try as hard as she did — then I'm going to do it too," Luciano said.
The procedure was ultimately a success.
"We went in there, we cut off some of the extra tissue that was flopping back and forth. We created artificial new support cords like the cords on a parachute to support the mitral valve, and we placed a ring to keep the leaflets properly aligned and close to one another," Rubin said.
Luciano's kids and girlfriend Karyn — who he coincidentally was introduced to through his daughter — stood by his side, caring for him through and through.
He’s now back on the bike, riding each day, even completing a 100-mile VeloSano ride to raise funds for cancer awareness.
He hopes people will prioritize their health and cherish what matters most — family.
“Don’t do it for you, do it for those that you love," Luciano said.
Luciano says he just cycled almost 30 miles last Monday.
He likely will not need any sort of surgery for another 20-plus years, according to doctors at the Cleveland Clinic.
Both he and Rubin stress everyone needs to prioritize their health, especially once we hit 40.