"I Survived Open Heart Surgery"

Patient: Teresa Boutwell

Longtime Jackson resident Teresa Boutwell was a healthy, 44-year-old mother of three with a great career.

How It All Began

One day, Teresa felt under the weather and went to a clinic for a checkup. Her blood pressure had escalated to stroke level.

Teresa's family practitioner set up an appointment with Cardiologist Dr. Reid Cotten at St. Dominic's Mississippi Heart Institute. Dr. Cotten ordered an EKG, a stress test and a PET scan.

Teresa was told not to expect to hear back from Dr. Cotten immediately, but he called her later that night with her test results: "You need to come in for a catheterization."

"Now he had my attention," Teresa recalls.

The Turning Point

Dr. Cotten performed her heart cath on January 8, 2008. It went well, but he wanted to keep Teresa at St. Dominic's while he referred her file to a surgeon. "You've got some blockage in your heart," he told her.

That afternoon Dr. Gerhard Mundinger, a Cardiovascular Surgeon at St. Dominic's, came to her room and told her two of her arteries were significantly blocked and another one also had blockage. He recommended immediate triple bypass surgery.

The idea of open heart surgery was scary, but Dr. Mundinger's delivery of the news helped to calm my fears.

"I've never had a doctor sit down and talk to me like Dr. Mundinger did. He talked on my level. He had a picture of a heart, and even drew and illustrated what he would be doing." Teresa said.

Teresa also received a visit from a volunteer with St. Dominic's Mended Hearts program, who shared his experience of open heart surgery and answered her questions.

Recovery and Life After Open Heart Surgery

Post-surgery, Teresa recalls, "They provided that personal level of care. They really treated me like I was a member of the family, not just somebody who was there. I cannot say enough positive things about St. Dominic's. I had two of the best head nurses, Julia (Skinner) and Teresa (Johnson)."

Cardiac nurse Julia Skinner believes in nursing families along with patients.

"The family is just as big a part of healing as the medical treatment is. I think that's the best way to nurse — to nurse the family and the patient. I know the family members' names and who they are, and I try to help them deal with it, too. They undergo as much stress as the patients or maybe more. It's important to educate the family and the patient about what to expect and how to care for them and who they can call if they need help in the future. I love my job. I love being able to help. And seeing the patients when they come back, saying, 'I made it. I'm ok.'"

Today, life is almost exactly the same as it was pre-surgery -- with the addition of three grandchildren. Teresa still enjoys her job and camping with family, but through a new and improved lens.

"It puts a whole new perspective on life," she said.


They provided that personal level of care.

They really treated me like I was a member of the family, not just somebody who was in there.

More About Teresa:

Where did you come to us from?
Jackson, Mississippi

How old were you when you were told you had to have open heart surgery?
44 years old

Who was your primary doctor during treatment at St. Dominic Hospital?
Reid Cotten, MD

What were your first thoughts after diagnosis?
The idea of open heart surgery was scary.