Family vows to bring awareness to heart condition that killed man on his wedding day

News 12 Staff

Oct 07, 2021, 3:05am

Updated on: Oct 07, 2021, 3:05am

A New Jersey woman who lost the love of her life on their wedding day five months ago is trying to bring awareness to the rare heart condition that killed him

Liz Barrett says that she is still dealing with the shock. She and her fiancé Mike Russano had put off their wedding day twice because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But they said that their love was worth the wait.

“[He was] a special person and I just feel lucky to have met him in my life. He’s so funny, he’s smart. He’s charming,” Barrett says.

On May 22, the morning of their wedding, Russano dropped off his mother so that she could get ready with Barrett and others. He was careful not to see the bride-to-be, as is tradition.

“I found out later he had backed into the driveway, so he didn’t even catch a glimpse through one of the windows, which is so dramatic, but so Mike,” says Barrett.

From there he went to the beach in Sea Bright for a quick swim before the wedding. But Russano never made it to the water.

Russano discovered that he had a heart condition a year earlier, after feeling light-headed and tired. Tests revealed that he had a life-threatening disease that can weaken the heart muscle and disrupt its rhythm.

He was told that surgery to implant a defibrillator was possible, but he did not get it.

“I mean, it was out of an abundance of caution, he was told that he would get this. And, I mean, at 35 that’s a huge surgery, so he was going to look more into it,” Barrett says.

Heart disease killed nearly 700,000 people last year. About 70% of people under 40 who die from cardiac arrest had an irregular heartbeat.

Russano’s condition was likely genetic. His family is urging others to listen to their bodies if they feel something is wrong.

“Be aware that this kills you. It killed him in his prime of life and it shouldn’t have,” says Russano’s mother Jama Russano.

A GoFundMe has been set up to help cover some of the family’s expenses.