Denny Kerwin: Cardiac Catheterization & Open-Heart Surgery

“I have never been so thankful that I live in a community with a great hospital and heart center. My open-heart surgery was an amazing, life-changing event.”

Early one October morning, after dropping his wife, Barb, off at work, Denny began having chest pain. He immediately took two aspirin but started feeling cold and clammy, so he drove himself to Allegiance Health’s Emergency Department. Within 30 minutes, Denny had a cardiac catheterization procedure to check blood flow to and from his heart. Just three hours after arriving in Emergency, Denny was having emergency cardiac bypass surgery.

He doesn’t remember much of that day, but Barb said, “The whole experience was truly seamless. Everyone was thinking two hours ahead.” While this was a very unexpected and emotional event for Denny’s wife and family, “The entire team took care of us and kept us informed of everything going on. Their calm professionalism put us at ease.”

Barb is especially grateful to Chaplain John Castonguay, “who led me through the morning. I don’t know what I would have done without him,” she said. She also appreciated Nurse Practitioner Nolan, Physician Assistants Chris and Ross, and everyone who treated Denny with compassionate care. “The surgeons came to check on Denny 10 to 12 times a day, and the whole nursing team was phenomenal. They soon knew my daughters by their first names, and they took the time to explain things to our grandchildren so they wouldn’t be afraid.” Denny calls his nursing team “angels from heaven.”

When Denny was ready to leave the hospital, Barb asked his nurse how to set up his physical therapy and home nursing visits. “She told me, ‘You don’t have to do anything at all. We’ve taken care of it.’ It was such a relief to be able to focus on getting Denny home and settled,” Barb said. She was pleased to receive a three-ring binder of information to take home. It included the names and phone numbers of Denny’s care team. “We were told to call any time of the day or night—and we did,” she said.

Because both of Denny’s parents and five or six other relatives died of heart attacks, Denny was understandably worried about his outcome and his quality of life following surgery. “I wondered if I would be able to travel with my wife again and be strong enough to play golf, which is one of my passions.” His recovery has gone smoothly, though, and he found he was able to get back to normal activity—even taking stairs—in a short time. “The doctors and staff were also really encouraging and confident I could live a healthy life again, Denny said. “That helped a lot.”

Since his surgery, Denny said, he appreciates everything a little more. “I appreciate my wife and my family more, and I am no longer in a hurry. I just enjoy life—even waiting in line, which I used to hate. I’m just happy to be here.” 

Denny has become an outspoken advocate of the Allegiance Heart and Vascular Center and has voluntarily mentored several individuals who were waiting to have open-heart surgery.

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