Collette Cattafi, a registered nurse and the director of emergency services, had a heart attack while at work and didn’t recognize the subtle signs and symptoms

February 1, 2023 – Registered Nurse Collette Cattafi wasn’t feeling well while at work in the Emergency Room at HCA Florida JFK North Hospital in May 2019.  “I have a history of asthma,” Cattafi explained. “I had also been sick for a week with upper respiratory symptoms, so I figured it was just a cold.”

Cattafi had spent the day outside, serving BBQ to the hospital’s EMS partners during EMS week, she went to wash her hands, caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror and realized she didn’t look well.  Clammy and pale, she suddenly couldn’t stand up straight.  The hospital’s medical director suggested she get put on a heart monitor.

“I wanted just to drive home and get some rest, but thank goodness I stayed and got an EKG.” Her test results showed she was having a full-blown heart attack.  Cattafi needed a higher level of cardiac care and went by ambulance to sister facility HCA Florida JFK Hospital, which has the largest cardiovascular services program in Palm Beach County.   “I worked at JFK Hospital for 22 years before moving to JFK North,” she said. “Everyone there knew me and went into high gear.”

Ashley Vertuno, CEO HCA Florida JFK Hospital and Collette Cattafi, Director of Emergency Services

Doctors took Cattafi straight to the cardiac catheterization lab, where they put in two stents to open her artery, which was 99% blocked.

“The care I received at both hospitals is the reason I am here today,” she said. “The quick action by my colleagues at JFK North got me stabilized and ready for life-saving surgery at our sister facility, JFK Hospital.  At HCA Healthcare we emphasize the importance of caring for our patients like family, on the day of my heart attack, I really felt that to be true.”

Cattafi’s recovery was slow, and she did weeks of cardiac rehabilitation. Still, today she can tell her story and teach other women the importance of paying attention when your body is trying to tell you something.

“The moral of my story is, don’t ignore the subtle signs,” she said. “Especially women who often blame not feeling well on being tired and stressed.”

HCA Florida JFK North Hospital is proud to share that the American Heart Association has nominated Collette Cattafi as a Woman of Impact for 2023.  She is sharing her story and raising much-needed funds for the American Heart Association while working to improve the health of our communities.

“Collette is the perfect example of someone who knows the signs of a heart attack because she is a registered nurse working in an ER,” said Ashley Vertuno, CEO at HCA Florida JFK North Hospital. “But women’s symptoms present differently, and this is a good reminder to listen to your body. With education and some lifestyle modifications, most cardiovascular diseases can be prevented. We’re so lucky to have Collette improving the lives of our patients and others in the community.”

For a complete list of heart attack and stroke symptoms from the American Heart Association, click HERE.


About HCA Florida JFK North Hospital

Serving Palm Beach County for more than 46 years, HCA Florida JFK North Hospital is a 280-bed full-service acute care hospital accredited as an Advanced Primary Stroke Center. Within minutes of I-95, the hospital’s 24-hour emergency room provides specialized hospital services for adults and children of all ages. Our hospital specializes in emergency services, in-patient and out-patient behavioral health services for pediatric, adolescent, adult and geriatric patients, spine surgery, general surgery, gastrointestinal including manometry/motility. Interventional radiology, orthopedic surgery, including minimally-invasive robotic surgery, urology and vascular, provide high-quality patient care to residents of West Palm Beach and the surrounding communities.

For more information, please visit



About HCA East Florida Division

HCA East Florida Division, a part of HCA Florida Healthcare, is a family of 14 hospitals, seven free-standing emergency rooms, 12 ambulatory surgery centers and 105 physician practices along the Treasure Coast and in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade Counties. More than 15,000 dedicated colleagues proudly make up the East Florida Division and are committed to improving more lives in more ways and giving back to the communities. For more information, please visit


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