Mamita's Loving Heart
She never forgets there?s a pacemaker in her chest
Edie J. Herons-Adler
On November 7, 2001, Neftali O., my mother, was rolled into the operating room at Centinela Hospital in Inglewood, California, to have her right hip replaced; it had fractured two days before when she fell in her kitchen, but doctors had to wait for her heart rate to stabilize, and for Robert Stan, M.D., a cardiologist, to give the OK before they proceeded with the surgery.
Published on LatinoLA: October 28, 2003
My father, (her husband of 63 years), my nephew and I sat anxiously in the waiting room, sometimes praying, sometimes crying. Several long, agonizing hours later, her surgeon informed us the operation had been successful. That afternoon Mamita was brought back to her room. I sat there, staring at the heart monitor. Later that night, I noticed her heart rate was dropping. Frantically I called the nurse. Mamita was taken to the CICU (Cardiac Intensive Care Unit), where she would spend several days.
Even at the CICU Mamita?s heart rate could not be fully stabilized. Doctor Stan recommended a pacemaker - a small, battery operated device that helps the heart beat in a regular rhythm. Through surgery, an electrode is placed next to the heart wall and small electrical charges travel through a tiny wire to the heart.
The family was adamantly against it. They feared that, at 81, Mamita could not survive another surgery. Doctor Stan was also adamant: Without the pacemaker, Mamita would not survive. At the end it was her decision to go through with it, and so, on November 15, 2001, exactly a week and a day after her hip replacement surgery, my brave mother went back to the operating room, this time to give her loving heart a little help.
While Erol Kosar, M.D., FACC, operated on Mamita, the family sat quietly in her room. I could not help but think about my older brother Roberto Efrain, who in 1994 died of a sudden heart attack. A highly intelligent man, he dismissed all the warning signs: chest discomfort, dizziness, shortness of breath, and a sharp pain along his left side. Tragically, by the time the paramedics were called, it was too late. He was only 52.
After a couple of hours, Dr. Kosar came to the room to tell us everything was fine, and Mamita was expected to fully recover.
The weeks that followed were not easy. Due to the hip replacement, Mamita had to relearn how to get up from bed, how to walk, and how to put on her shoes without bending. The physical therapy was painful and difficult - due to the pacemaker operation, her left arm movement was limited. But every day we all thanked God for the doctors, and the science that helped my mother live. We were also grateful to the American Heart Association for funding the research that made that science possible.
It has been almost two year?s since Mamita?s surgeries. Her inner strength, faith in God, and determination have helped her recuperate and go back to normal, everyday activities, and this year my parents celebrated their 65th anniversary! Sometimes Mamita seems to forget she has to be careful with her hip! But she never forgets there?s a pacemaker in her chest, giving her loving heart a hand.
Edie J. Herons-Adler:
Edie J. Herons-Adler, a regular contributor to LatinoLA, joined the American Heart Association as Latino Media Director in October of 2002.