Mary Koreen: Open-Heart Surgery

Mary Koreen loves cooking, baking and entertaining her family. She’s enjoying these things even more now, since she had lifesaving heart surgery at Allegiance Health.

A week before Christmas, Mary was at a family celebration when she began feeling weak and tired. She chalked it up to overdoing it for the holidays. But, by the time she got home, she had become short of breath and began coughing persistently. Then she passed out briefly.

By this time, Mary’s cough had gotten worse, and she thought she had pneumonia. “There was a blizzard out, and I really didn’t want to go to Emergency, but I was getting concerned about the cough,” Mary said. She asked her husband, Tim, to take her to Allegiance Health.

At the Allegiance Health Emergency Department, thoracic surgeon Mohan Kulkarni, MD, examined Mary. She also had an EKG (a test to measure the electrical activity of the heart), which was “normal.” But, Dr. Kulkarni suspected a heart problem and ordered additional tests. These determined that Mary had a ruptured heart valve and needed open-heart surgery.

“The heart surgeons, Dr. Macha and Dr. Simonetti, did a great job of explaining everything to my family while I was being prepared for the surgery. They talked about all the options and prepared them for what to expect. The doctors were very confident, and that gave them confidence as well,” Mary related.

Mary’s younger daughter, Kaitlin, has a medical background and asked the doctors a lot of questions. “I was pleased that they always took the time to answer me and that they kept my family informed every step of the way,” Kaitlin said. The nursing staff at the Heart Center took great care of my mom and my whole family. They always explained medications, IVs, blood draws. Everything about her care was exceptional and could not possibly have been any better.”

Mary said, “The nurses treated me like I was a family member or their “mom,” and they were monitoring me constantly, doing something quietly in the background to make sure I was as comfortable as possible and taking care of necessary treatment. They were always offering my family blankets, pillows and something to eat. I wanted to take them all home with me.”

One day after surgery, shortly after Mary got up to use the bathroom, Dr. Simonetti called the nurses from his home. “He has an app on his phone that allows him to check on his patient’s vital signs,” Mary explained,” and he saw that my heart rate had gone up. I don’t know when he sleeps.”

After discharge from the hospital, Mary’s family had help from Allegiance Home Care Services. “It was so nice not having to get mom dressed and out of the house in the snow for check ups,” Kaitlin said. “The home nurses were very caring, thoughtful and patient with all of us, even coming out on Christmas Eve for a blood draw.”

Three months after her surgery, Mary was given the okay to fly out to California to visit her older daughter. “I was actually able to be there for the birth of her son—our first grandchild,” Mary said. “When I think that I might not have been there for her or the baby if I had not had a successful heart surgery, I am so grateful to be alive. I am sincerely happy with how things went, and I am very appreciative that the Allegiance Heart and Vascular Center was here for me.”

Eating one or two servings of fish rich in Omega-3 fatty acids per week, like salmon or tuna, decreases your risk for heart disease and even heart attack.