Abby’s Heart Surgery Story



Abby before surgery Friday, May 29

Abby before surgery Friday, May 29


Here’s a note we received this week from Kathryn Kuhlmann, the mother of a Mayo Clinic pediatric patient:

My daughter, Abby, who is 11, had heart surgery at Mayo on May 29, and she recorded a short video tour of her hospital room to share with some family and friends. I’m contacting you at the suggestion of my sister Kelly Morse Nowicki in Continuing Medical Education who thought this might be the sort of clip Mayo would be interested in posting on its YouTube channel.

As is probably typical of most experiences at Mayo, all the staff were very caring and informative. And for her to be up and about just two days after open heart surgery is a testament to the skill of all involved.

We are very appreciative of everyone we came in contact with, and Abby would be willing to let her video be viewed by a wider audience as a way of showing another positive patient experience. 

Abby’s video, which was recorded on a Sunday afternoon after her Friday morning heart surgery, is embedded below.

Here’s a follow-up note with further details we received from Abby’s dad:

Abby had open heart surgery on May 29 to repair an Atrial Septal Defect using a minimally invasive technique performed with a thorascope, in which the repair was done through a small incision between two of her ribs. The surgery took place on Friday morning and she was back home already on Monday afternoon! We are praising God for the amazing team of doctors and nurses He provided at Mayo Clinic and for His continued healing touch during Abby’s recovery.

I (her dad) shot the video three days after her surgery. It was actually Sunday afternoon, May 31, not June 1 as she says on camera – but I’m not surprised she lost a day during all that. I had encouraged her to do a video tour of her room so her cousins and others who weren’t able to visit her in the hospital could see where she was. She originally shot a video herself, narrating from behind the camera but agreed to do another take with me recording and her giving the tour “in person.” She insisted I start outside the room to get the best opening shot. The most amazing thing to us was that just 48 hours after having open heart surgery and being on a heart lung bypass machine with her heart stopped she was up walking around almost like nothing had happened. And 24 hours after that she was at home.
Additional background: Abby was found to have a heart murmur during a visit to her primary care physician in January 2009. She was referred to pediatric cardiology, and the next day an echocardiogram showed a one inch hole between her right and left atria. Repair was advised, and an attempt was first made on May 21 via catheter procedure. When that was unable to repair the hole, she was scheduled for heart surgery, which she had on May 29. Abby enjoys singing, acting, dancing, bike riding, and swimming – and can’t wait to get back to all of that after 6 weeks of recuperation.

Members of Abby’s primary medical team:

Cath Lab


Mary Brigh 5B ICU

  • Kerri Hart
  • Stacie Gwaltney 
  • Randall Flick – anesthesiologist on the floor

Mary Brigh 5C

  • Erika Simon
  • Linda Drake
  • Jackie Bartos
  • Erich Winter 
  • Michelle Redmond
  • Jamie Kiefer, P.A. for Dr. Burkhart

Primary Care — Community Peds — who first detected the heart murmur — Valeria Cristiani

Thanks to Abby and her parents for sharing their great Mayo Clinic story! If you would like to share yours, see this page.

Lee Aase is manager of syndication and social media for Mayo Clinic.

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10 Responses to “Abby’s Heart Surgery Story”

  1. Anna Taylor Says:

    Dear Abby,
    How was being in the ICU bed? I bet before you knew that your hospital staff was taking good care of you.If you have an e-mail mine is !!!!!!

  2. Richard Says:

    my first post
    thank you for having me! 😀

  3. Carrie Says:

    Hi Abby, you don’t know me but I worked in the heart monitor laboratory at St. Mary’s Hospital. Even though I wasn’t working while you were in the hospital those of us who work in that department are the specialists that watched your heart while you were recuperating after surgery. It is so encouraging to read your story and watch your video. You did a very thorough job explaining how things were set up in your room and how things worked. Thank you so much for sharing, God Bless you and your family.

  4. Erika Simon Says:


    I’m so glad our nurses could be a part of your story and your recovery. It was a pleasure to be your nurse and I really enjoyed having such a sweet and vivacious patient! I know you will be back to dancing in no time! Good luck and many blessings to you and your family….

  5. David Neary Says:

    This was a very inspiring story to read and see the video. I’m Glad Abby is doing so well. My name is David, I don’t know Abby but am a soldier in the U.S. Army and was forwarded this Blog by my sister Erika Simon who was one of the nurses who worked with Abby during her treatment. Anyway good for you Abby, you seem to me like a very couragouse and strong girl with a lot of heart. take care

  6. Abby Says:

    We’re SOOOO glad Abby’s surgery went well!
    Abby (S.)

  7. Rebecca in Colorado Says:

    What a lovely tour, Abby! You did a great job and I enjoyed seeing your video and reading about your surgery. I’m so glad to hear that you are doing well and that God’s hand was in all of the details.

    (I am your pastor’s sister-in-law — I think I met you at one of the girls’ graduation parties in the past.)

  8. Pam Block Says:

    Even though I was very familiar with Abby’s story (since you’re our friends), I read this with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. Thank you for sharing your story. Hooray for God’s healing and for giving wisdom and direction to those at Mayo.


  9. Shannon Beauchene Says:

    The Beauchene’s are SO glad Abby’s surgery went so well!

  10. joelle bauerle Says:

    I loved reading this story… i indeed needed it and loved it. My son died in a car wreck three year ago in July. He was a donor. His heart and liver exist in a man who is doing great…..bittersweet but an awesome miracle…..Frank has had zero rejection so far…He travels from Maryland to Minnesota to visit my sons grave each year…….blessings and good wishes to your famiy…God is in control

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