It’s usually not very nice to be happy when your husband gets a cold. But in Karen Magrini’s case, that cold around the Christmas holidays saved her life.
“I knew when Joe got sick that I would probably get it,” she recalls from the kitchen of her comfortable Barnegat home. “But that cold was a life-saver.”
After Christmas, Karen was feeling so ill she went to an urgent care center where they took a chest x-ray.
“The technician then told me it looked like I had an enlarged heart,” she says. “I thought, ‘that’s not possible.’”
Referred for follow-up, she had a CAT scan. Next thing she knew the phone was ringing.
“I was told to get to the Emergency Department as soon as possible. Apparently I had a very large aneurysm, around 10 centimeters.” Karen and her husband Joe rushed to the ER, where Karen was hooked up to monitors and told she needed immediate transfer to a cardiac center for heart surgery. For her, there was never any doubt where she would go.
“Of course I picked Deborah. Joe’s mother had been here years ago and did fantastic, and many of my neighbors in this community go to Deborah. Everyone knows it’s a terrific hospital.”
The rest of the story? Karen was stabilized at Deborah for nine days prior to surgery, so she could more fully recover from her cold, which was verging on pneumonia. Then, as healthy as could be, Karen underwent surgery for the aneurysm, as well as an aortic valve replacement and bypass grafting for a blocked coronary artery.
Joe remembers how worried he was. “They told me it would be a four-hour procedure, and my sons and I were there waiting, but it took over ten hours. At one point you start to worry if everything is OK.”
Joe and his sons were not alone, however. Not only did the OR staff frequently visit them and provide updates, but dedicated members of the Zipper Club (former open heart surgery patients) also stopped by to bolster their spirits.
“We found out that part of the reason it took so long was that because the aneurysm was so involved, it was difficult to repair. In order to do it correctly they had to place Karen in a deep hypothermic state, by chilling her body temperature way down. After the surgery it took time to rewarm her.”
The surgery was successful and Karen spent the night in the Intensive Care Unit under observation.
“I found out later what had happened,” she says. “Joe didn’t want me to know how difficult the surgery had been. I was surprised when I found out.”
Deborah’s Chief of Surgery, Paul Burns, MD—who performed the surgery—is thankful that Karen came to Deborah.
“She had absolutely no symptoms like shortness of breath or feeling tired or dizzy,” he remarks. “All three of the conditions she had were potentially fatal, and she is a very lucky woman to have had her surgeries before anything happened. Each of these conditions is repairable, and I am confident that Karen will have a long and productive life ahead of her. When Karen chose Deborah, she found a team that was 100% committed to getting her life back on track. That’s what we did.”
For Karen, life has completely gone back to normal. The 70-year-old loves her three sons and six grandkids, and thoroughly enjoys her clubhouse activities, playing Mah Jong, taking ceramics classes, and picking up the next Book Club selection.
“I am so thankful to Deborah,” she says, “and to my husband, who gave me his cold. Otherwise, I would never have known I was so sick.”
Behind the Scenes of Karen’s Story
Open heart surgery patient Karen Magrini and her husband Joe, opened their home to the Deborah film crew recently and gave us a detailed and emotional account of her amazing experience. Her story has a tremendous impact on everyone who hears it, causing them to reflect on life and to never take their own health for granted.
The film crew—a producer, cameraman, sound tech and photographer—was welcomed into the Magrinis’ home for the taping of her story. It was heartwarming as the crew learned about their fifty-year love story and viewed photos of their children and grandchildren.