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A Lifetime of Heart Procedures, Not to be Derailed by COVID-19

Dani-Lynn Andrulonis DamascoManchester resident Dani-Lynn Andrulonis Damasco is no stranger to hospital beds.

When she was two-years old she underwent open heart surgery to correct transposition of the great vessels. The surgery was successful, and Dani (shown here with her grandkids, from left, Jayla, Veronica, Aiden and Dominick) had a normal childhood growing up.

“My mom was my cheerleader,” she said “and I never was viewed as needing a ‘crutch’. My family was ‘this is Dani and this is how it is.’”

Dani had no significant health issues and periodically underwent a catheterization, but over time she developed syncope (fainting when blood pressure is too low) and in 2005 received her first pacemaker. As batteries wore out — or leads needing changing — she received replacements, and knew that Deborah was her home away from home.

“I love Dr. C (Raffaele Corbisiero, MD, Division Director of Electrophysiology) and my cardiologist Dr. Sena.”

But in December, the 50-year old proud momma and grandma became short of breath.

“Bottom line, I went in and I seemed fine.” Things were not OK, however. Dani, whose pacemaker is monitored by Deborah remotely from home, started getting calls that the technicians heard a noise on one of the leads. By now, COVID-19 was also a major statewide health emergency.

“Finally it was apparent that I didn’t have that much time left on my pacer. I decided to come in and do the replacement.”

Professionally, Dani coincidentally has spent her career in the dental field. “When I went to Deborah I took mental notes, for the time when our dental practice would open again. I was pleasantly surprised by the visit. There was the hand sanitizer, the masks, the chairs were spaced for social distancing.”

“I noticed that behind the plexiglass shields, the staff wiped everything down between patients and put on a fresh pair of gloves. When I went for my surgery the team was very professional and apologized for wearing their ‘Darth Vader’ masks, but I knew they were doing it to protect me, so I felt very safe.”

“The worst part about going for my fourth pacemaker was knowing that I was going to be alone. Every other time I was at the hospital I had my mom or my kids sitting next to me. But after getting dropped off I felt alone.”

That fear, however, never had a chance to materialize.

“When I woke up the outpatient procedure nurses were absolutely amazing,” she recalled. “Not only did they not leave me alone for even 30 seconds, they called my mom right away so I could talk to her. They were my new cheerleaders and they made me feel so special and cared for.”

“Making patients feel comforted and cared for is of utmost importance to us, especially at this time,” said Rita Zenna, RN, Vice President Patient Care Services. “We know how frightening it can be for many of our patients right now having to undergo procedures without their normal support systems readily available. It is vitally as important that not only do we provide our patients with safe, competent care, but also with the human aspects of healing, kindness, and touch that also matter just as much. This is a priority for our staff.”

As to visiting Deborah during COVID-19?

Dani said: “I want to tell anyone who needs to see their doctors, you should NOT be putting it off. Be aware of your surroundings and what safety measures are being taken. Don’t be afraid. Be careful and cautious.”

“This is your life, don’t play with it.”

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