UH Heart Surgeon Leaves a Lasting Mark on His Patient

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Kathleen Black proudly displays her tattoo

A University Hospitals Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute surgeon made such a mark on one of his patients that she decided to put a permanent mark on herself.

Kathleen Black, of Niles, Ohio, had a faulty aortic valve which meant blood couldn’t flow freely through her heart. That caused her heart to work extra hard to pump blood throughout her body. She experienced chest and back pain, as well as extreme exhaustion. Three of Black’s brothers died in their fifties from massive heart attacks. At 55 years old, she knew she had to address the problem, but she was terrified to undergo heart surgery. Then, she met Dr. Cristian Baeza, a cardiac surgeon with UH Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute. She says he made her feel at ease and comfortable. She calls him her angel, and after a successful aortic valve replacement surgery, she credits him with saving her life.

Kathleen Black and Dr. Cristian Baeza

“I told Dr. Baeza that when this was all over, I was going to get a tattoo for him. He discouraged me from that, but he’s my angel and I wanted to do something so I could always remember what he did for me,” said Black, whose son is a tattoo artist.

Black underwent aortic valve replacement surgery in February of 2021 at UH Cleveland Medical Center. She took time to recover and minimize the risk of infection, and then, in March of this year, her son tattooed her arm with an image of her own heart rhythm and Dr. Baeza’s name.

“It’s been a joy to help repair Kathleen’s heart. She’s such a fun patient who loves life,” said Dr. Baeza. “We generally discourage our cardiac surgery patients from getting tattoos because of the risk of infection, but Kathleen insisted. It’s an honor that she feels so grateful to our team at UH Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute.”

Black has two granddaughters and now, after surgery, has more energy to play with them and participate in their lives. She’s looking forward to many more years with her friends and family.

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