• Cardiology Patient Stories

    Abby’s Heart Surgery Story


Abby before surgery Friday, May 29
Abby before surgery Friday, May 29

Here's a note we received this week from Kathryn Kuhlmann, the mother of a Mayo Clinic pediatric patient:

My daughter, Abby, who is 11, had heart surgery at Mayo on May 29, and she recorded a short video tour of her hospital room to share with some family and friends. I'm contacting you at the suggestion of my sister Kelly Morse Nowicki in Continuing Medical Education who thought this might be the sort of clip Mayo would be interested in posting on its YouTube channel.

As is probably typical of most experiences at Mayo, all the staff were very caring and informative. And for her to be up and about just two days after open heart surgery is a testament to the skill of all involved.

We are very appreciative of everyone we came in contact with, and Abby would be willing to let her video be viewed by a wider audience as a way of showing another positive patient experience.

Abby's video, which was recorded on a Sunday afternoon after her Friday morning heart surgery, is embedded below.

Here's a follow-up note with further details we received from Abby's dad:

Abby had open heart surgery on May 29 to repair an Atrial Septal Defect using a minimally invasive technique performed with a thorascope, in which the repair was done through a small incision between two of her ribs. The surgery took place on Friday morning and she was back home already on Monday afternoon! We are praising God for the amazing team of doctors and nurses He provided at Mayo Clinic and for His continued healing touch during Abby’s recovery.

I (her dad) shot the video three days after her surgery. It was actually Sunday afternoon, May 31, not June 1 as she says on camera - but I'm not surprised she lost a day during all that. I had encouraged her to do a video tour of her room so her cousins and others who weren't able to visit her in the hospital could see where she was. She originally shot a video herself, narrating from behind the camera but agreed to do another take with me recording and her giving the tour "in person." She insisted I start outside the room to get the best opening shot. The most amazing thing to us was that just 48 hours after having open heart surgery and being on a heart lung bypass machine with her heart stopped she was up walking around almost like nothing had happened. And 24 hours after that she was at home.

Additional background: Abby was found to have a heart murmur during a visit to her primary care physician in January 2009. She was referred to pediatric cardiology, and the next day an echocardiogram showed a one inch hole between her right and left atria. Repair was advised, and an attempt was first made on May 21 via catheter procedure. When that was unable to repair the hole, she was scheduled for heart surgery, which she had on May 29. Abby enjoys singing, acting, dancing, bike riding, and swimming – and can’t wait to get back to all of that after 6 weeks of recuperation.

Members of Abby's primary medical team:

Cath Lab




Mary Brigh 5B ICU

  • Kerri Hart
  • Stacie Gwaltney
  • Randall Flick - anesthesiologist on the floor

Mary Brigh 5C

  • Erika Simon
  • Linda Drake
  • Jackie Bartos
  • Erich Winter
  • Michelle Redmond
  • Jamie Kiefer, P.A. for Dr. Burkhart

Primary Care -- Community Peds -- who first detected the heart murmur -- Valeria Cristiani

Thanks to Abby and her parents for sharing their great Mayo Clinic story! If you would like to share yours, see this page.

Lee Aase is manager of syndication and social media for Mayo Clinic.

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