When Art Mercado first joined the Lifestyle Change Program at Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine, he said very little about his previous 46 heart procedures during group support sessions.
It took a good-natured ribbing from the outspoken Matt Crisci to get him to open up.
“What about that guy?” Matt motioned toward Art. “He hasn’t said anything.”
Thus began an unlikely friendship between Matt and Art, two very different men with one very common bond: They both came to Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine to heal their hearts and save their lives.
Matt has an irregular heartbeat that puts him at an increased risk for stroke and heart disease. Art has scar tissue in his arteries, which requires stents to be placed and replaced regularly. Art also has Parkinson’s disease.
During the program, Matt learned to manage his stress, and Art learned to open up — two key components of their healing journeys. Both agree it was the camaraderie in the group that made the biggest difference.
“This sense of community is one of the most important components of the Lifestyle Change Program,” says Mimi Guarneri, MD, founder and medical director of Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine.
“It helps to know you are not alone. We encourage our participants to stay in touch beyond the 12 weeks of the program.”
No one doubts the bond between Matt and Art will last a lifetime. Matt was so moved by Art’s story that he has written a book about him called Papa Cado, a project that has changed both their lives. It is one of several books he has authored.
A native of New York, Matt Crisci enjoyed a professional career as an executive in high-powered ad agencies and in the financial services field. When one of his sons attended college in California, Matt grew fond of the state and relocated there a few years ago.
He continues to work as a creative consultant, and has authored several books based on “wonderful life stories that [he has] had the good fortune to be a part of,” including Papa Cado, the book he wrote about his friend, Art Mercado.
Art Mercado was born in Mobile, Ala., but grew up in California. He spent his early years as a quality control executive, followed by a successful career in car sales. Along the way, he raised his young daughter alone after his first marriage fell apart.
Health concerns prompted him to retire, and now he focuses on taking care of his heart and enjoying time with his wife, daughter and four granddaughters.