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University Hospitals patient thanks heart surgeon in a unique way

After encountering troubling health issues, Kathleen Black met Dr. Cristian Baeza of University Hospitals. He is the man who she credits with saving her life.
Credit: University Hospitals

CLEVELAND — When Kathleen Black of Niles entered University Hospitals with chest/back pain and extreme exhaustion, her life hung in the balance.

At the age of 55 and with three brothers who all died of massive heart attacks in their 50s, Black knew she had to take action. Terrified with the idea of heart surgery, she met Dr. Cristian Baeza, a cardiac surgeon at University Hospitals Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute in Cleveland.

Dr. Baeza is the man who Kathleen Black credits with saving her life.

Before Black underwent aortic valve replacement surgery on February 21, 2021, she said Dr. Baeza made her "feel at ease and comfortable" with her journey to surgery and post-surgery recovery. She even told Dr. Baeza of her plans once recovered from the valve replacement procedure.

“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 would go on to have the procedure as planned, and it was labeled a success. She took time to recover post surgery, wanting to minimize the risk of infection. But in March of this year, she stayed true to her promise as her son tattooed a special image of her own heart rhythm and Dr. Baeza's name.

Credit: University Hospitals

“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 more energy to play with them and witness the many upcoming moments in their lives. 

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Editor's Note: The video above is from an unrelated story published on May 17, 2022.

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