Dave and Charlene’s Story

How one UH Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute physician helped a family heal after loss.

Portrait of Dave and Charlene LindenModern medicine is truly amazing. But even with today’s technology, in some cases, all that physicians can do is offer compassion to patients’ families when they lose a loved one. That was the case with Ankur Kalra, MD, and the family of Charlene Linden.

For several years, 85-year-old Charlene Linden had been under the care of cardiologist Hassan Ibrahim, MD, FACC, with North Ohio Heart in Sandusky. She had been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat) and over the years required three trips to a local ER for cardioversions to set her heart in rhythm. The first two were successful but the third was not. Additional medications were prescribed that helped Charlene’s heart maintain normal rhythm and she returned home to enjoy the activities of her daily life with her husband, Dave.

But, in Dec. 2017, Charlene began to lose strength and didn’t feel well. That’s when Dr. Ibrahim recommended that Charlene see UH Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute Interventional Cardiologist Ankur Kalra, MD.

Upon examination, Dr. Kalra found that Charlene’s mitral valve (a valve in the heart that allows blood to flow from one chamber to another) was deficient. He recommended that she undergo a cardiac catheterization at UH Cleveland Medical Center to break up the calcium that had accumulated in the valve and restore it to normal function.

Unfortunately, when Dr. Kalra began the procedure, he found a clot in the left chamber of Charlene’s heart.

“Having a clot in the left atrial appendage is a contraindication to do the procedure, because there is an attendant risk of dislodging the clot (while manipulating wires and catheters in the left upper chamber) to the brain, which could lead to a stroke,” said Dr. Kalra. “I did not want to inflict a stroke, and worsen her quality of life.”

At that point, Dr. Kalra’s plan changed to keeping Charlene on blood thinners with the hope that the clot would dissolve and allow him to do the procedure. After approximately a month, Dr. Kalra attempted once again to repair Charlene’s valve, but found that the blood clot remained.

“Even with higher therapeutic window for the blood thinner, the clot persisted – although it did decrease in size,” said Dr. Kalra.

“At that point, my wife and I made the decision for her to continue her medication and care in the comfort of our home and enjoy the remaining time we had together,” said Dave.

Charlene passed away on May 29, 2018.

“I was able to be with her at all times and provide the care she needed,” said Dave, Charlene’s husband of nearly 59 years. “We were able to be together and live the way we chose at this point in our lives, which was very important to us.”

Throughout the last several months of Charlene’s life and after she passed, Dave and Dr. Kalra communicated often, in person, via phone and text. “Our family was very pleased with the care we received from North Ohio Heart and UH, both before and after Charlene’s death,” said Dave. “Of all my medical contacts, Dr. Kalra seems to be the most giving, most sharing, and most available.”

After Charlene passed away, Dr. Kalra invited Dave and his daughter Cheryl to meet with him, just to talk, and see if there was anything he could do to assist their family.

“It has been most helpful to talk with Dr. Kalra,” said Dave. “He went out of his way to make himself available for conversations with me and my daughter. These conversations have helped us to understand what Charlene was going through and have been cathartic. They were greatly appreciated.”

To learn more about the services provided by University Hospitals Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute, visit UHhospitals.org/heart. For an appointment with interventional cardiologist Dr. Ankur Kalra, call 216-844-8915.