Patient Story

Frances’s Story – Coronary Artery Disease

A week before Frances Olenik learned she would need open heart surgery, she was helping organize a fundraiser for her granddaughter’s Girl Scout troop.   

“My daughter and I were loading and unloading the truck all day during the event. I had zero symptoms. I was completely fine,” Frances says. 

In fact, Frances reports never having experienced symptoms that would raise concern in the months and years leading up to a diagnosis of four blocked coronary arteries. Nevertheless, as a lung cancer survivor who underwent chemotherapy and had a family history of cardiovascular disease, she regularly saw a cardiologist.  

At an appointment with Razan Shamoon, MD, an interventional cardiologist at HVA Medical Group, part of the Englewood Health Physician Network, an elevated calcium score became the first and only sign that Frances was in trouble.  

“This is why calcium scoring is so important,” explains Dr. Shamoon. “It can serve as an early warning sign of coronary artery disease. We often see elevated calcium levels before patients begin to experience typical symptoms of heart disease such as fatigue, chest pain, and shortness of breath.”  

According to Frances, Dr. Shamoon had been encouraging her for some time to undergo a follow-up cardiac catheterization procedure to further evaluate her heart’s function. 

“I kept putting it off,” Frances says. “Eventually, Dr. Shamoon made me promise that when I came back from my upcoming vacation, I would get it done.” 

When Frances finally came in for the procedure, Dr. Shamoon discovered that her arteries were extensively obstructed, rendering it impossible to proceed with intervention. Suddenly realizing the severity of Frances’ blockage, Dr. Shamoon’s first call was to Molly Schultheis, MD, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Englewood Health. 

“I went in for the test with Dr. Shamoon on a Friday, and by the following Monday I was in surgery with Dr. Schultheis,” Frances says. 

On October 23, 2023, Frances underwent an open-heart, quadruple bypass surgery at Englewood Health. In doing so, she made history as a contributing patient in ROMA: Women, a global study on heart surgery in women, for which Dr. Schultheis serves as a principal investigator. 

“As a participant in the trial, Frances’s experience will contribute to an international body of research that aims to deepen our understanding of coronary artery bypass surgery in women,” says Dr. Schultheis. “Women who have yet to be diagnosed with coronary artery disease will benefit from what we’ve learned from Frances, and we are immensely grateful for her important contributions to this research.” 

Today, Frances is much recovered from surgery and going to cardiac rehabilitation three times a week. She has been able to return to her daily life, which consists of walking her dog, bringing her granddaughters to dance, soccer, and Girl Scouts, and caretaking for close members of her family.  

More than anything, Frances is relieved that her blockages were detected before the onset of a heart attack. 

Reflecting on the experience now, she says, “everyone took such good care of me. From Dr. Shamoon making sure I got the cardiac catheterization, to Dr. Schultheis staying with me throughout surgery and recovery, to the nurses who treated me like I was their own mom—I really would not be here today without the incredible care I received from everyone at Englewood Health.” 

Posted February 9, 2024

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