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Heart patient grateful for excellence, empathy of Summa Health caregivers

Right to left: Heart patient Marianne Gezzar with Summa Health Heart
and Vascular Institute nurse Betty Valle

On July 1, 2016, Marianne Gezzar, 58, wasn’t feeling well. A Summa Health employee for more than three decades, she had first served as a nurse in the Summa Health intensive care and coronary care units before joining the Human Resources Department as a nurse recruiter. Even so, her symptoms of an imminent heart attack were so subtle, she didn’t recognize them. In training for a half-marathon walk, she took a couple pain relievers for her sore shoulder and a few antacid tables for mild indigestion. She chalked up her fatigue to working late. She blamed her sweating on the weather and cranked up the air conditioner. When her symptoms continued into that evening, her daughter took her to the Summa Health Emergency Department.  

“They started running tests immediately,” said Marianne, who was kept overnight for observation in the Critical Decision Unit even though the results of her preliminary blood work came back within normal ranges. The health system’s decision to keep her overnight saved her life, she said. “I had been planning a weekend getaway by myself at our family camper.”

The next morning, interventional cardiologist Peter Bittenbender, MD, performed a catheterization that revealed a 99 percent blockage in her left anterior descending vessel, the so-called widow maker. He performed an angioplasty to restore normal blood flow and inserted a stent, interventions that prevented Marianne’s mild heart attack from progressing any further.

“I was so frightened, but I never felt alone,” said Marianne. “Everyone who took care of me was so kind and calm – the doctors and nurses; the staffs in pastoral care, social work and emergency; the technicians, the cath lab and CCU staffs. Even when they had their masks on, I could see the kindness in their eyes” 
Marianne spent one night in the CCU, went home the next day, began cardiac rehabilitation at the end of July and is back to training for the half-marathon walk.
Moreso than lucky, Marianne is grateful: “Summa Health gave me my life back.”

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