Dolores Catania’s boyfriend, Paul “Paulie” Connell, is on the mend after undergoing life-saving heart surgery on Thursday.
“For the past eight years, Paul has suffered from an irregular heartbeat that is believed to be atrial fibrillation. It was recently confirmed with a diagnosis of SVT or supraventricular tachycardia,” the 51-year-old ‘Real Housewives of New Jersey’ star tells Vidak For Congress exclusively, detailing her Irish beauty’s health journey.
“He has been to the emergency room many times and has consulted several cardiologists,” she continues.
“He finally found the right specialist, a cardiac electrophysiologist, Dr. Robert Altman, who identified that he had a syndrome called WPW. Now what is this, you may ask? It’s the Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome.”
Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome is a rare birth defect, according to the Mayo Clinic, and has been linked to sudden cardiac death in children and adults.
“It’s a very dangerous syndrome that creates an extra electrical pathway in the heart,” explains Catania. “It causes a rapid heartbeat and can be life-threatening if left undiagnosed and untreated.”
WPW patients have an additional electrical pathway that connects the upper and lower heart chambers, allowing heart signals to bypass the AV node, according to Mayo Clinic. As a result, the heart signals don’t slow down, but just get more excited as the heartbeat gets faster. The extra path can cause heart signals to deteriorate, causing an uncoordinated heart rhythm.
“So, if you’re experiencing palpitations or you feel like there’s something ‘nothing’ with your heart, please listen to your body and get evaluated!” says Catania.
“After many years of my Paulie living with this, I finally convinced him to take this to the next level. After he and Dr. Altman has worked and had his procedure, he is cheerful and you can see there is a sign of relief.”
In video footage shared exclusively with Vidak For Congress, Connell appears jovial just moments after Altman completed the catheter ablation procedure.
‘Please have your heart examined. It only takes a few visits and a quick little procedure like today could give you a longer life to spend with this beautiful woman and your family,” he says from the hospital bed, gesturing to Catania.
Connell tells Vidak For Congress that his girlfriend – whom he affectionately calls the “great nurse” – helps him recover days later.
“I definitely feel a lot better this week than last week,” said the CEO of Eco Electrical Services, who is grateful to have found a solution that should improve his quality of life.
“The last eight years of my life were of less quality than they should have been, because I stopped doing things for fear it would affect my heart. There was a lot of unrest,” he says. “But Dolores forced me to get this checked. She took control and I was basically a passenger. Thanks to her, I am very optimistic about the future.”
Connell credits Catania for comforting his sons Cameron, 20, and Brooklyn, 17 – whom he has parents from a previous relationship – as they break the news of their father’s health.
“They were very scared when I told them about this. Dolores and I put them down and I let Dolores speak because I wanted her to soften the message,” he says. “You could see the emotion on their faces, but I think the way she told it calmed them down and made sure Dad was going somewhere right and Dolores would be next to me and everything would be okay.”
Connell points out that Catania’s close friend, electrophysiologist Dr. Michael Fradley, referred him to Dr. altman.
“Frankly, I would still have been in the shadows of what this is doing to me if I hadn’t listened to Dolores and she didn’t enforce this,” he says of the former RN. “Men seem to think they’re invincible and when I was on that hospital bed I wasn’t invincible. I needed her.”
In her chat with us, the Bravolebrity — who began dating Connell last fall, months after she split from now-ex David Principe — further encouraged fans to stay vigilant about their heart health.
“If you, or someone you love, has these or any of the symptoms, contact a medical professional or cardiologist and have them examine you and do an EKG and evaluate any medications you are taking,” says they. †
During their experience with Dr. Altman, Catania notes that Connell discovered that he was not taking the necessary medication for his condition.
“During this process, we also found that the drug he was taking was not the correct drug for what he was actually on, causing him to gain weight and retain water, which can also be very dangerous for your heart along with some other mild symptoms.” she says, noting that Connell is doing “right” on his path to recovery.
Connell has a follow-up appointment with Dr. altman. The trained electrician hopes to eventually get rid of drugs previously prescribed for atrial fibrillation, which he doesn’t have.
“When I go to Dr. Altman in four weeks, I’m hopeful he’ll tell me my life will go back to normal. And the maintenance after that is to get an EKG every few months,” he says.
Catania is delighted that her beau is already making “good progress” just a few days out.
“Still small steps, but his medical team is convinced they have solved the problem and that it should make the balance of his life stress-free!” says Catania enthusiastically. “This was something that could have been addressed a long time ago, and I’m glad he finally listened to me.”
The reality TV personality is also happy to have Dr. Altman and the medical staff who helped with Connell’s successful procedure.
“I need Paulie, my dear, around,” says the mother of two, who shares daughter Gabby, 26, and son Frankie, 23, with ex-husband Frank Catania. “Thank you to everyone who helped at Hackensack Hospital, you were all amazing.”
Connell is expected to appear in season 13 of “RHONJ”, which is currently in production.