Friday, July 27, 2012

Healing the heart of a family


HEARTFELT THANKS: From left, Bethune, Kelleher and Harthorne


A little more than a year after losing her husband of 29 years to a sudden heart attack, Marilyn Kelleher simply couldn’t shake the feeling that something else was wrong.

She was determined that their 20-year-old son, Patrick, have a thorough examination to ensure his heart was healthy. “There was just something in my head that told me that I needed to make sure Patrick was checked out,” the Reading resident said. “I just knew something wasn’t right. My husband Paul had the heart attack at the age of 56, and we just had so many questions about it.”

Kelleher sought out MGH cardiologist J. Warren Harthorne, MD, for whom her sister had previously worked as an administrative assistant for seven years. He advised Patrick be brought in, and after an evaluation, Patrick was sent to the Electrophysiology Laboratory for extensive study.

Kelleher’s “mother’s intuition” was correct.

Patrick was diagnosed with Wolf-Parkinson-White syndrome, which means an extra electrical pathway runs through the heart between the atria and ventricles. Although typically asymptomatic, the condition can present the risk of sudden cardiac death. Patrick underwent ablation therapy by Jagmeet Singh, MD, PhD, director of the Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy Program.

“That might have been Paul’s problem – but we’ll really never know,” said Kelleher. “But we were lucky that Patrick was able to come here to have it taken care of.” In May, while simultaneously marking the two-year anniversary of Paul’s death and celebrating Patrick’s new lease on life, Kelleher’s friends decided to host a fundraising event to thank the MGH. “MGH has really wonderful doctors and nurses – they were all great,” Kelleher said. “And Dr. Harthorne is just a fabulous human being. We are so thankful and very grateful and wanted to do something to give back.”

Cristina Bethune, BSN, MHA, nurse director of the Cardiac Electrophysiology and Pacer Lab, said the dinner-dance and silent auction event brought in $5,200 for the Pacemaker Lab Research Fund, which supports education opportunities for laboratory staff. “We are really appreciative,” said Bethune. “This will help many of our nurses further their education.” 

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