Try Our Physician Map! Advertise With Us!

My Heart Story

Margaret Stoken

Margaret Stoken

I know that I have to take care of myself so that I won’t be in that position with my health again. I know I need to exercise every day and try to eat as healthy as possible. I feel I owe this to all the staff at HealthPark that took such good care of me. I have been given a second chance and am grateful for that.

My heart story begins with a brother who had his first heart attack at 26, and died at 36. My mother had 4 heart attacks and 2 strokes that took her at 62. I also have an older sister that went into heart failure one year after my young brother died. She had a triple bypass and is currently still with us at 73 years old.

I had felt fortunate to not have any heart issues until now. My cholesterol numbers were always good, but as I soon found out, cholesterol numbers do not always totally control our hearts and arteries. Last summer I had slowed down quite a bit since having been laid off from my job, but kept thinking that the extreme heat and being overweight was what was making me tired and holding me back from trying to walk my new puppy. I never experienced any chest pains. My stepsister noticed that I had been breathing more heavily than normal and not able to do as much around the house. During my office visit with Dr. Torricelli, I had requested to have a stress test after not having one for several years.

I was sent for a blood test before my checkup with him requested a CRP (C-reactive protein) test that my stepsister had learned about from the Dr. Oz program. This ended up saving my life. I had asked to have this test added to my blood work. When the results were sent to Dr. Torricelli, my cholesterol numbers were again, good, but my CRP number was a 13; and 1 or 2 is within the normal range. The bottom line was that my protein level was off the charts- indicating inflammation in my body. I was prescribed high potency fish oil-, which in the three weeks before my stress test helped lower my CRP number to an acceptable level.

My stress test was scheduled one-week later- I had rescheduled to the next week since I was attending a family friend’s memorial, not suspecting I would have anything urgent of my own. My rescheduled appointment was almost rescheduled by Dr. Torricelli’s office due to a bad electrical cord causing the treadmill to not work. I decided to have the nuclear test as not to reschedule my test again.

I asked the tech to stop the test once the fluid had caused me to become quite dizzy- because it had created a squeezing sensation in my chest. I was then referred to Dr. Hoffman for an echocardiogram, which showed something abnormal with the left side of my heart. He then scheduled a heart catheterization (cath) for Friday, September 7th. Upon being prepped for the Cath, it was difficult finding my veins to insert the different intravenous lines.

My pre-operation prep nurse had tried several times, but being a “hard stick”, she had phoned the IV Lab for help. After waiting at least half an hour, the tech they sent us was not the expert she claimed to be and couldn’t help. Her rudeness to my prep nurse was more upsetting than all the attempts made without success.

Being that this was part of the process that was keeping me from getting to the Cath room, I was wheeled there and upon my arrival, an OR (operating room) tech named Mike said “Let me have a chance at it”, and bingo! - He got the lines in. As soon as Dr. Hoffman discovered that a catheter would not work since I was completely blocked in my main artery and two other arteries, it became apparent that open-heart surgery was my only option for survival.

Fortunately Dr. DiGiorgi was there to do the emergency surgery I needed. I never was aware of what went on after I left the Cath section of the Cardiac Unit. I only have a small memory of my first night in the ICU. I seemed to wake for brief periods only to see Frank, my nurse, tending to the sweat on my face and forehead. I felt as though there were angels floating around me as I tried to understand what had happened and where I had been since 6:00 am when I arrived at the hospital.

Frank was so gentle and professional as he used a cool washcloth to cool me down. Through all of this process, my only fear of anything was to remove the tube that was down my throat. I felt as though I would choke at any minute, but Frank had reassured me that it would be okay. I felt so bad for my stepsister not knowing how long she had spent at the hospital that day, only leaving to tend to my puppy at home, then returning that evening (even after the staff had reassured her that I was doing well) to see me in the ICU.  I didn’t even know she was there until the next day when she came back!

I remained in the ICU until Sunday afternoon when I was taken to my permanent room on the Cardiac floor. My afternoon RN (registered nurse), Shelley, a very competent and caring nurse, and CNA (certified nursing assistant) Gwen (I think that is her name), were always there for anything I needed throughout my five day stay.

Dr. DiGiorgi (my surgeon) checked on me daily, and was always concerned about my progress, with which he was quite happy.

Mended Hearts (a cardiac support group) had stopped by to visit me, which was a nice surprise, and Melissa from Phase I Cardiac Rehab also stopped by to answer any questions I may have had. During my next two days I slowly gave up the tubes inserted in my chest; intravenous tubes for my Lasix (a diuretic) used to remove the swelling in my hands and feet, and I was soon taking short walks down the hallway, behind my wheelchair which I used to steady myself.

My last morning they’re the tube inserted in my neck was removed- my last piece of life support left over from my surgery. Again, I was treated with such tender care.

Once at home, I was contacted by Home Health Care the next day, and a nurse was sent to me to check my vitals and inform me of a computer monitor that I would use daily to weigh and record my vitals. I was shown so much care and concern, even calling me the second week I was home after losing 7 lbs in a short period of time without trying.

After 3 weeks of being seen twice a week by Home Health care, I was ready to fly on my own. I’d like to thank Dr. DiGiorgi and the HealthPark team for all the genuine care given to me.