Archive for the ‘Cardiology’ Category

The Heart of a Woman

February 3, 2011

Written by heart attack survivor Susan Cardelli:

Just last week was the 10th Anniversary of my heart attack—January 25, 2001—or as the medical community would call it “A Cardiac Event”. Whenever I hear it referred to as a “cardiac event”, I always picture myself walking down the red carpet, dressed in a sequined hospital gown, pulling an IV cart, while waving at the paparazzi.

As we all know, having a heart attack, open heart surgery, or any heart procedure is anything but glamorous. It is frightening, lonely, painful, and life-altering. It is also isolating and causes most of us to suffer from depression. The media, people around us, and some medical professionals cluck their tongues and blame us, the patients, for having heart disease. We should’ve exercised more, ate more whole grain Cheerios, had less stress, lost weight, etc. What is worse is that WE blame ourselves!

For too long I beat myself up and blamed myself. This only kept me depressed, not caring about whether I lived or not, despite the fact that my cardiologist told me over and over again that the reason I had my heart attack at age 41 was due to heredity. It finally dawned on me that it was not about “fault” or “blame”, but about acceptance of what is. I had to get to a place of learning to love myself before I could take any steps towards taking care of myself.

I believe what the medical community and society in general needs to focus on is not what exercises or diets or medicines we need—but first, how we feel about what happened to us, how we feel about ourselves, and how to move forward in lives that have been forever changed.

Joining WomenHeart in 2001, just a few weeks after my heart attack, has been a major reason why I am still here. WomenHeart Co-founder Nancy Loving called me and talked with me for a long time. She made me realize that I was not alone and that there were others who had also been misdiagnosed and under treated. It was great talking with someone who totally understood. Then, in October of 2002, I attended the first ever Science and Leadership Symposium for Women with Heart Disease at the Mayo Clinic. That is when I made amazing connections, and the real healing began.

There were many tears shed throughout the symposium. These tears were of relief and joy that, yes, we were truly not alone in this. We were finally being heard and validated. We all became family instantaneously. Even though we were all from different parts of the country and different ages, lifestyles, ethnicities and beliefs—having the shared experience of heart disease brought us together.

I am still so amazed and proud of what our WomenHeart Sisters Class of 2002 have accomplished in the last 10 years! When we started going out there, no one knew that heart disease was the #1 killer of women. All they saw were pink ribbons on yogurt. Today, almost everyone has seen a red dress on some product or ad. We started that. Imagine how many lives we have all saved…

A special thanks to all my WomenHeart sisters for having the courage to go out there and educate other women and medical professionals that yes, it is not just a woman’s heart that is important; but the heart of a woman as well.

Naomi Atrubin, American Heart Association Heart and Stroke Hero winner award

September 22, 2010

Naomi Atrubin of Rochester, Minnesota, is a two-time heart attack survivor. Not only is she a survivor, but she is also an active volunteer in the community, giving back to others through educating people she meets about heart disease.

One of Naomi’s volunteer interests is participating in Mayo Clinic’s One Voice patient/family advisory council for the Division of Cardiovascular Diseases. One Voice is dedicated to building on Mayo’s traditional value of the “needs of the patient come first.” This unique group of patients, family members and health care staff collaborate to develop improved processes and optimal outcomes for future patients.

Now, Naomi’s efforts at educating others will be recognized by the American Heart Association with the Heart and Stroke Hero Award at the annual gala in Minneapolis on October 16.

Read about Naomi’s heart health journey here:
I had my first heart attack on Christmas Eve 1992. Although I have been around cardiology and cardiologists most of my life, I was in denial at the time. I was a 62-year-old woman, and this couldn’t be happening to me. My second heart attack was in October 1997. Again, I found it very inconvenient and was fighting recognizing the symptoms.

In both episodes I had the classic symptoms of a heart attack (chest pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and great weakness) and the family history too.

My family has a dreadful cardiac history which I guess is true of many cardiac families:
• My father, a cardiologist, died of a heart attack at age 51. He had “heart trouble” for seven years.
• My only brother, also a cardiologist, had a heart attack and suddenly died at the age of 50.
• My nephew (my brother’s son) had heart surgery at age 38.
• My sister had a heart attack at age 60 which she survived.

Naomi playing in a volleyball tournament at her high school reunion

I have participated in cardiac rehab twice, and I’m mostly
virtuous, following “healthy living” rules. I stay active, watch my diet and exercise often. I even got to play in a volleyball tournament at my high school all-school class reunion in Winnipeg. It was the 100th anniversary of the school.

I have been very active in the Rochester Coronary Club and in One Voice, and I am very active in “Women Heart” the advocacy group in Washington, DC. In 2005 I graduated from the “Women Heart” four day intensive training program, run conjointly by “Women Heart” and the Mayo Clinic, and I served a three year term on Mayo’s Institutional Review Board. I also was director of the “Heart Fund” race back in the late 1970s. I feel that by “giving back” through these activities, that I am thanking the Mayo Clinic for helping me survive my two heart attacks.

I joined the Coronary Club seven years before my first
heart attack because I was feeling so bad about my brother’s
heart attack and sudden death at age 50. I needed to do something. Kathy Zarling, who started the Coronary Club, was very supportive.

Naomi met Senator Franken while attending a training program with Women Heart in Washington, D.C.

There is still so much to be done to educate the public about
heart disease, and I want to be one of the educators. It can be done by giving talks but also in nontraditional ways, with friends at coffee shops and in other informal situations.

This story was submitted by Naomi Atrubin, a patient at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Deanna Constans, a communication specialist in the Division of Cardiovascular Diseases, also contributed.

To learn more about One Voice, please contact Carrie Sanvick, RN, Mayo Clinic One Voice Co-Chair (507-255-7074).

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Having a Heart: My Mayo Moment

September 7, 2010

As a new Mayo Clinic employee, I had a particular notion of what it meant to become a part of the clinic even before I started. During the orientation process, various people shared anecdotes relating the strong heritage and culture of Mayo Clinic. Each story spoke to why Mayo Clinic is one of the most well-known brands in the world. But I never truly understood the dedication and pride of working at Mayo Clinic until I participated in an event.

Jim Frye

I hadn’t even been on the job a week when Jim Frye, a member of Mayo Clinic’s Systems and Procedures team in Florida decided he was going to walk 17 miles to work to promote heart health. Specifically, he wanted to bring awareness to Mayo Clinic’s sponsorship of the American Heart Association’s 2010 Start! Heart Walk, a 5K walk planned for Sept. 25.

Frye, a tri-athlete, decided he would challenge not only his fellow Mayo employees to get involved, but the City of Jacksonville as well. Who couldn’t walk three miles if he could do this?

His upcoming trek sent the hallways into a firestorm during the days leading up to the event. Employees would whisper to their peers and mention it in passing between meetings. They were anxiously awaiting his journey similar to the way a NFL team anticipates the Super Bowl.

I had the pleasure of meeting Frye on several occasions during my first week. From our first introduction to subsequent conversations, he made me feel welcome and an integral part of the Mayo family. Whenever someone asked about his planned journey, he would exude genuine warmth and beam with pride. It was obvious through each conversation that this walk symbolized Frye’s dedication to the purpose of the American Heart Association and pride in representing Mayo Clinic.

But I was still surprised by what I felt when I watched Frye make his way down San Pablo Road – the four-lane boulevard leading to the Florida campus. As he rounded the last curve toward the clinic entrance, wearing a bright-red Team Mayo Clinic T-shirt, I felt a sense of pride I have never experienced. I realized for the first time that not only was I a part of an organization but a brand where employees truly put the mission and core principles into practice.

I signed up to participate in the American Heart Association’s Start! Heart Walk the same afternoon and am looking forward to participating as an employee of Mayo Clinic, a purveyor of pride, in an organization that lives its mission as a great institution in everything it does.

This story was submitted by new Public Affairs communications consultant, Lauren Venoy, at Mayo Clinic in Florida.

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Mayo Clinic is my answer

September 6, 2010

People often ask 22-year-veteran Kay Thiemann why she has stayed at Mayo Clinic for so many years. Her answer is simple: “Because we embrace our mission to put the needs of the patient first. And because we are committed to delivering quality care for our patients each and every time. It is very important to me that my personal values fit with my employer’s values.”

As the operations administrator for the departments of Neurology and Neurosurgery on the Florida campus, people rely on Kay Thiemann for answers. But when Thiemann recently needed answers, she had faith her colleagues would come through for her.

Ben Thiemann

On July 20, her son was brought to Mayo Clinic after complaining of chest pain and shortness of breath while attending a sports camp. As she anxiously waited for the results of his tests, she received a frightening call that her brother had been taken to the Rochester campus after suffering two heart attacks.

Thiemann says her brother Lynn had been on vacation in Iowa when the first heart attack occurred. “I was told he was taken to a rural hospital where the physician advised he was fine and would be discharged. He knew there was something wrong.” She said her brother insisted he be taken to Mayo Clinic in Rochester for a second opinion.

Thiemann was now more anxious. But soon, she had answers.

Though Ben had experienced symptoms similar to his uncle, Thiemann’s son was diagnosed with an extreme iron deficiency that could easily be treated. It was due to his extreme physical activity.

Lynn, however, was a bit more complex. He suffered a second heart attack during transport to the clinic and was determined to have a carotid artery that was 95 percent blocked. Surgery was needed to insert a stent.

“He was told by staff at the clinic if he had waited another 12 hours he would not have made it,” Thiemann said. “But he said he would rather have died trying to get to Mayo Clinic, than to have never tried at all.”

Today, both Ben and Lynn are doing well and Thiemann is even more vocal about the value of Mayo Clinic and its model of care.

“There is not a health care system that compares to the quality of care of Mayo Clinic and the compassion its staff provides to its patients,” Thiemann said. “When my family needs answers, there is only one Mayo Clinic.”

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Heartfelt Memories

May 30, 2010

As a mother of a two-year old, I know that memories are precious. I spend a lot of time behind the camera taking pictures so that my son can have a lasting impression of our time together. It is with that in mind that I am an advocate for the American Heart Association (AHA) and an involved member of Mayo Clinic’s Start! Heart Walk team.

Heart disease runs in my family. Both of my grandfathers died of heart-related illnesses, and my father has a pacemaker to keep him ticking. I know it’s likely that I’ll have a heart-related issue in my lifetime, so I try to focus on living well and prevention. 

But now, as a mother, I want to do something that will make an impact on my son. Aidan is the light of my life, and I want to be able to love him, play with him and just be a part of his life for as long as possible. I also want him to know – even at the tender age of two – that having healthy habits is important and that fitness can be fun.

By participating in events like the heart association’s Start! Heart Walk, I am able to do that. I enjoy walking, can do it with my son at any age, and I gain the health benefits every time I step out. By volunteering as a part of Team Mayo Clinic, I help get the word out about heart disease and further the education and research efforts of the AHA.

This year, Mayo Clinic is the corporate sponsor of the Jacksonville, Fla., Heart Walk, which will be Sept. 25 at Metropolitan Park. Our goal is to get 550 walkers – colleagues, family, friends and patients. Perhaps you’ll consider joining Aidan and me as we build some heartening memories?

To learn more about heart disease visit To sign up as part of Mayo’s team, visit please click here and then select either a team or click the “Create New Team” link. Follow the prompts.

This article is written by Amy Lannen, a documents manager at Mayo Clinic’s campus in Florida.

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Mayo Clinic Artificial Heart Patient on CBS Evening News

May 24, 2010

Charles Okeke leaves Mayo Clinic after two years in the hospital

A Mayo Clinic patient achieved a medical milestone recently when he was the first U.S. patient to go home with a new kind of portable artificial heart. CBS Evening News covered the story, which began as follows:

For nearly two years, 43-year-old Charles Okeke has tried to live a normal life in the hospital tethered to a 400-lb. machine.

“It sort of overwhelms you to think, ‘I’m stuck to a machine,'” he says.

Okeke was barely 30 when a blood clot destroyed his heart, reports CBS News medical correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton. He had a transplant and for 10 years life was good for this computer consultant and father of three.

But in 2008 his body rejected that heart and at that time another transplant was out of the question.

Okeke now has what is called a “total artificial heart.” Both ventricles were removed along with four valves. Connector tubes were sewn in. It pumps blood just like a human heart.

Mr. Okeke is a patient at Mayo Clinic in Arizona. His surgeon, Dr. Francisco Arabia, was instrumental in enabling him to get approval to use the new device.

Watch the story here on the CBS site.

See a story about Mr. Okeke from last year here on Sharing Mayo Clinic.

The Heart of Mayo Clinic in Florida

April 9, 2010

Almost two years after the opening of the new hospital on Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus, employees still get pumped up about working in the state-of-the-art operating rooms (ORs). The cardiothoracic surgery team has two designated heart operating rooms, each averaging more than 700 square feet in size, spacious by OR standards. They are equipped with ceiling-mounted high-definition monitors and two booms with video equipment that can be controlled from the nurses’ area.

Cardiothoracic surgeons Dr. Kevin Landolfo, Dr. Richard Agnew and Dr. John Odell bring a variety of experience and diversity to the team. Surgeries range from the routine, such as coronary artery bypass grafting including off-pump procedures and heart valve replacement and repair, to MAZE procedures, implanting ventricular assisted devices, heart and lung transplants, aortic root surgery, thoracic aneurism repair,  ventricular remodeling and minimally invasive heart procedures. Later this year,  robotic- assisted heart surgery will be done.

Wally Caldwell, a registered nurse and coordinator of Cardiac/Vascular Surgery, says one of the joys of working at Mayo Clinic is that all physicians work for the institution and share the same core values as the staff. This adds to the quality of care and coordination within the OR.

Wally’s greatest inspiration is when he is able to visit with the patients after surgery and witness their progress in recovery. “There are many times where the patient can’t breathe, and two days after surgery, they are talking and eating,” he says. Patients are what bring him to work everyday, he says.

When asked how he would like to make his mark at Mayo Clinic, he recalled his first day of work when a colleague gave him the advice to “try to make Mayo a better place when you retire than it was when you started.”

To become a member of this wonderful team or learn more about our staff, visit our website at

Written by Jennifer Lineburg, recruitment coordinator at the Florida campus. Information given by Wally Caldwell, registered nurse and coordinator of Cardiac/Vascular Surgery at the hospital.

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