Melissa Jennings Find a Location Find a Doctor Heart & Vascular Advanced Heart Failure Management Center Arrhythmia Center Diagnostic Testing Treatments/Procedures Cardiology Heart Attack Care Minimally Invasive Procedures Cardio-Oncology Cardiac Rehab Clinical Research Diagnostic Services Heart Surgery Florence Wormald Heart & Vascular Institute Building Patient Success Stories Prevention & Wellness AHA Training Center CardioVascular Mobile Health Unit Hands-only CPR Healing Hearts Women's Support Group Health Disparities and Cardiovascular Disease Heart Healthy Lifestyle Tips My Heart Rocks Women and Heart Disease Tobacco Cessation Freedom from Smoking Nicotine Medication Nicotine Replacement Tobacco Cessation Therapy Success Stories Tobacco Cessation Resources Youth E-cigarette and Vaping Epidemic Structural Heart & Valve Center Aortic Valve Replacement Mitral Valve Surgery Your Hospital Stay Care After Heart Surgery Intensive Care for Heart Conditions Nurses with Heart Care Expertise Transitional Care Units Two-time Bypass Patient Becomes Advocate for Heart Health Melissa was 41 and facing her second heart-bypass surgery after having been diagnosed with Kawasaki disease as a child. This is her story. “I walked into the hospital that morning with so many emotions. I was scared, but I was hopeful. I was worried about leaving my husband and son alone. I wasn’t ready to go; this couldn’t be my time. As I let go of my husband’s hand, I gave him a goodbye letter. Fighting back tears, I watched him disappear as they wheeled me down the hallway. I had already survived one open-heart surgery (CABG — coronary artery bypass grafting). In 1984, I was diagnosed with Kawasaki disease. When I was just 11 years old, my parents were told that I had multiple coronary aneurysms, but to wait to operate. At 20, the majority had disappeared on their own, but one, located in my left main coronary artery, had calcified. I felt tired and lacked energy; it was due to the reduction of blood flow. My artery was obstructed and without surgery I would die. On December 14, 1993, doctors completed my first open-heart surgery. It was a wonderful success. Fast forward to December 2012. I have an amazing husband, live in a beautiful house in Northern Kentucky and have a loving son. Around Christmas I began to feel run down and tired. I spent the next seven months just trying to keep up. I was constantly exhausted. In July 2013, I suffered an angina. An angina for many women feels like a sharp pain throbbing or burning in your chest. You might feel it on your neck or throat. You can also lose your breath and have anxiety. I put aside my dread and called my cardiologist. It’s hard to accept that your body is failing, but after seven months of fatigue, it was a phone call I was ready to make. I just didn’t want to hear that I might need another open-heart surgery. I spoke with St. Elizabeth Cardiologist Dr. Kevin Miller. We started with a heart stress echo. I had it on September 19 and did not pass it. As it had been 20 years since the original bypass, I was not surprised, but of course still hopeful. On September 25, I had an angiogram and found out that my bypass from 20 years ago was failing. I cried. Dr. Miller told me that other veins and arteries were "stepping up" and performing in the faulty one’s place with collateral blood flow, so I didn’t immediately need surgery, but I needed another open-heart surgery soon. Dr. Raymond Will, a cardiothoracic surgeon at St. Elizabeth, explained that it was a tricky procedure because it was a redo and because of the position of my artery. I chose to have my second bypass surgery on October 30 at St. Elizabeth Edgewood. I entered the hospital that morning feeling hopeful but anxious. As a mother, as a wife, the last thing you ever want to do is leave your family. I hugged my husband and told him goodbye and told him to take care of Peyton. I gave them both a letter to open later in case. I carried my son’s picture to give me strength. His face provided me the courage I needed that morning. While I was scared, I strongly believed in the team of doctors and nurses at St. Elizabeth. They provided me peace and comfort every step of the way. The nurses held my hands and understood it was scary. I knew I was going to make it through this surgery. Luckily, I was right. Today, I’m healthier than ever. My heart is strong and my future is bright. I know another open-heart bypass surgery is in the cards for me and maybe more. I know I will put my heart into the hands of St. Elizabeth again. I write this story to urge you to be aware of your own heart health. Taking small steps to a better heart and overall wellness is so important. Simply calling your local family doctor can save your life. Join with me, and let’s take care of our hearts.” Heart & Lung Surgery Services at St. Elizabeth For more information about Heart & Lung Surgery at the St. Elizabeth Heart & Vascular Institute, click here.