Patient Stories: Sandy Fallis
Sandy Fallis was on a ski trip when she got an unexpected call from her doctor after a routine physical. “There’s something wrong with your heart,” she remembers the doctor saying. “We think it could be serious.”
As a former gym teacher, Sandy always had an active lifestyle. She thought she knew the signs of heart disease. But when she started feeling tired and short of breath during her usual physical activities, she ignored it for some time.
Scans and tests at St. Mary’s revealed a leaky valve due to a severe case of mitro regurgitation, a disorder in which the heart’s mitral valve does not close properly.
The solution: open-heart surgery for the 62-year-old.
Sandy was anxious, scared, and in disbelief. But she trusted the experts at St. Mary’s to repair the valve.
The hospital, which celebrated 20 years of excellence as a regional cardiac centre this summer, performs more than 700 cardiac surgeries annually.
“The doctors know what they’re doing because they’ve done this all many times before, and they’re very successful at it,” Sandy says. “So you’re nervous, but you know it has to be done.
“Afterwards you go: ‘wow, open-heart surgery – that's a big honking deal.’ It’s amazing that they can go in, fix the part and sew it all back together.”
This past year, donors helped fund equipment Sandy needed, including the sternum saw used in her open-heart surgery, the cleaning unit that disinfected her operating room tools, and the ECG cart that helped diagnose her heart problem.
Sandy went through different diagnostic tests at St. Mary’s in January and had her surgery in May. From the moment she walked through the hospital’s front doors, she felt warmth and compassion.
“Everyone is so committed to patient care there,” she says.
Sandy recently began a post-surgery program at St. Mary’s cardiac rehab centre – a space which donors have helped fund for several years. The staff and state-of-the-art fitness equipment there are allowing Sandy to re-strengthen her heart and thrive in her recovery.
Within months of her surgery, Sandy was running up the stairs in her split-level home and feeling thankful to St. Mary’s and cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Gary Salasidis.
“They gave me back a heart that can handle physical activity and life.”
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