The Heart of a Teacher
Ahwatukee resident Karen Graf didn’t want heart surgery to keep her from her passions—raising her children and teaching the students in her class. With minimally invasive surgery at Scottsdale Healthcare Shea Medical Center, Karen received the excellent care and expedient treatment she desired. Motivated by a strong family history of heart disease, Karen decided to have a health checkup. That turned out to be a smart move on the 49-year-old’s part as it ultimately led to the discovery of a tumor on her heart’s mitral valve. “The tumor was the shape of a mushroom and the bulb part was about the size of a pea. It was extended from a piece of flesh that was stretched like a rubber band. It could break at anytime, or not, but if it did, the tumor could dislodge and cause a stroke,” Karen said. After deciding not to risk the potential health dangers, she turned to Scottsdale Healthcare cardiac surgeon Rajeev Kathuria, MD. Using a minimally invasive approach, Dr. Kathuria removed the tumor through an incision less than 2-inches long. “I thought it would be like traditional heart surgery and I’d have an incision that looked like a big zipper down my chest,” said Karen, recalling the long incision her father had after triple-bypass heart surgery. In addition to less scarring, Dr. Kathuria’s minimally invasive procedure enabled Karen to spend less time in the hospital and recover faster. She was home in just five days and back to caring for her children and teaching not long afterward. “I was able to attend my daughter’s eighth-grade promotion and my son’s fifth-grade promotion within two weeks of the surgery. I was back at school in time for the doors to reopen after summer break,” said Karen, who had her surgery May 17, 2010 and was thrilled to return to school two months later for training and teacher instruction before students arrived on Aug 2. Scottsdale Healthcare’s dedicated nurses also helped speed Karen’s recovery, making sure she did the walking and deep breathing necessary after surgery to prevent complications. “Everyone was committed to getting me well. The nursing manager and supervisor checked in to make sure I received good care and service. I was really impressed by that. And Dr. Kathuria was kind and gentle and explained everything in an easy-to-understand manner,” Karen said.