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Avera Medical Minute: Patient turns emergency medical experience into impactful volunteering opportunity

Stent procedure prompts patient to begin volunteering for Mended Hearts program
Published: Feb. 28, 2022 at 10:34 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Sister Mary Jaeger is a familiar face around the Avera Heart Hospital.

She is a volunteer for Mended Hearts, a patient support network that helps families and patients going through heart care.

It wasn’t too long ago that she herself was a patient in this very hospital.

“I remember it very clearly. It was the last weekend, the last Sunday of October, 2015,” she said. “And I was in my kitchen, baking banana bread, so I was moving around quite a bit and everything with that and it came on rather suddenly. I remember having severe chest pain, left chest and it radiated up to my neck and into my jaw.”

Having been a nurse, Sr. Mary knew something was wrong. She called 911 and was rushed to the hospital.

When she got there, the physician performed an angiogram, or an evaluation of her heart.

“He said all your vessels are clear, except one, the coronary arteries has a narrowing, there’s a narrowing at the top,” said Mary.

A probe of her heart showed the artery was significantly compromised.

She underwent a procedure to put in a small device in her artery, known as a stent.

“A stent procedure, at least in the interventional cardiology world, is one of the more common procedures that we perform,” said Dr. Thomas Waterbury. “Putting a stent in an opening up a narrowed or blocked artery can have a profound impact on their quality of life and ability to exert themselves and do normal activity.”

It’s now been seven years since Sr. Mary’s stent was placed. And her life, in a way, hasn’t changed.

“I don’t hardly think of it, because I don’t have to,” said Mary.

She knows she’s one of the lucky ones.

“There’s thankfulness and a confidence and I get up in the morning and am not even thinking about, if I’m going to have chest pain, because I don’t, it’s just gone.”

She now fosters that thankfulness into goodwill and giving back through volunteering for Mended Hearts.

“The important part of Mended Hearts is it’s a presence. It’s a presence and support for families and patients,” she said. “It really has become an important part of my ministry, as a Presentation Sister. It’s really an important part of who I am.”

She expects the organization to be a part of her life for a very long time.

More information about heart health and Mended Hearts can be found at www.Avera.org/MedicalMinute.

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