A 50th wedding anniversary is traditionally marked with gifts of gold, but how do you recognize a 50th heart surgery anniversary?
For one former patient, the milestone is filled with thanks and appreciation because she knows first-hand that a healthy heart is worth its weight in gold.
When Teresa Cruikshanks, now of Nitro, WV, was 5 years old, her mother noticed she was tiring easily and struggling to keep pace with her brother and sister.
“My mama would come out back to check on us and I’d be laying in the yard because it was too hard for me to keep up,” Teresa said.
Suspicious of their daughter’s behavior and development, Teresa’s parents took her to their pediatrician who recommended she be taken to Akron Children’s Hospital for testing.
“We learned I was born with a heart abnormality which caused the valve that carries blood to the lower body to be blocked off,” said Teresa. “My doctors (John Kramer, pediatric cardiologist, and William Falor, cardiovascular surgeon) recommended I undergo a new procedure to fix the problem. The surgery was so new the American Heart Association asked my family if the surgery could be filmed and used for physician education.”
Although her heart surgery was a big deal, the young Teresa was more interested in watching other children at the hospital, playing with her new orange stuffed dog and seeing one very exciting visitor.
“‘Daniel Boone’ visited the hospital while I was there,” she said. “I remember him coming off the elevator with his buckskin cap and gun. He was the real thing. It was really neat. I’ll never forget it.”
Teresa’s procedure and recovery kept her at the hospital for nearly a month so her parents made many trips from Byesville, Ohio, to Akron to be with her. She even stayed an extra day just so her dad, John Cruikshanks, could help take out her stitches.
“I was pregnant at the time and had children at home so it was a very tiring and scary time for our family,” said Juanita Monfredi, Teresa’s mother. “I’m very thankful for the procedure Teresa received and to Children’s for how they helped our family.”
After surgery, Teresa went on to lead a healthy childhood, even earning the presidential physical fitness award in high school. She continues to thrive as an adult.
“I see the scar every day and don’t think much about it anymore,” she said. “But, this year, I see it and think wow it’s been 50 years and I’m still going strong. I’m very grateful to Children’s for their wonderful care.”
As part of our year-long anniversary celebration, we’re telling the story of Akron Children’s through the eyes of past and present employees, doctors, donors, volunteers and patient families. We encourage you to share your own memories and stories about us.
About Suzi Schenkenberger
Suzi Schenkenberger is a freelance writer and public relations consultant. With more than 15 years experience, Suzi has written for local and national brands including GE, Diebold, Akron Children's Hospital and E.J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall.