“They were like family:” Patient Karen thanks cardiac team on Nurses Week

Karen Ludlam was far from home when she needed heart surgery to repair a leaky mitral valve.
But at St. Mary’s General Hospital, she found family in her cardiac nurses.
“They joked with me. They laughed with me. They made me feel like I wasn’t alone,” said Karen, a 58-year-old from Owen Sound.
“They were young enough to be my kids, but it felt like they were all my mom.”
Karen, a St. Mary's patient at the hospital, smiling.
Karen travelled 150 kilometres from home to St. Mary’s to have surgery in February. Her husband, Todd, dropped her off at the hospital, then had to return to Owen Sound for work until he picked her up more than a week later.
While Todd says it was tough to be away from Karen after surgery, he had faith in St. Mary’s staff to get his wife back on her feet.
“I knew she was in good hands,” he says.

Wildfires and chest pain

Karen had started feeling fatigue and shortness of breath on a trip to Manitoba last summer. Chalking it up to poor air quality from Western Canada wildfires, she initially dismissed the symptoms.
At a chiropractic appointment upon her return, Karen mentioned that her chest felt heavy. Her chiropractor measured her blood pressure – “it was through the roof, Karen says” – and told her to get to a hospital right away.
A cardiologist in Owen Sound ran some tests, which showed an enlarged heart from the leaky valve. Weeks later, Karen was referred to St. Mary’s cardiac surgeon Dr. Kassem Ashe, who told her it was best to fix the valve quickly.
“So, then his secretary pulls up his calendar and was like ‘OK how about next week?’” Karen says. “I was like ‘whoa, that is fast.’”
Karen and her husband, smiling, taking a selfie.

The quick fix, and the steady support

Karen had minimally invasive surgery to repair the valve, followed by a 10-day hospital stay where nurses had a vast impact on her emotional and physical recovery.
“They were my support group. They helped me walk; they even helped me shower – and once a nurse helps you shower, you have no choice but to feel like family around them,” Karen says with a laugh.
This Nurses Week (May 6-12), Karen is sharing her appreciation for Charlene, Tina, Quino, Mariah, Annabel, Marguerita, and Ruth with a thank you note on St. Mary’s General Hospital Foundation’s Grateful Patient webpage.
“I don’t know if they’ll ever truly realize how much they meant to me,” Karen says. “But I wouldn’t be here without them.”
St. Mary's General Hospital - 100 Years

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