Heart surgery patients reunite with life-saving teams

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PHOENIX -- Thursday night, 100 Arizona open-heart surgery patients reunited with the doctors who saved their lives.  We introduce you to one of them, a woman used to pushing her body and heart, a person who never imagined a diagnosis she received years ago, would actually threaten her life.

Tracy Cruickshank stood with her doctor, Robert Riley, and took in the celebrity treatment with a professional photographer documenting the moment.  It was a place and situation in which she never expected to be.

“I sort of deluded myself into thinking I was fine,” Cruickshank said with a laugh.
She has always been active and healthy, living her life as if there were no tomorrow.  Even though she was diagnosed with a heart murmur at birth, she never felt sick, even put off regular exams.  But in the fall of 2010, she went for a check-up and was diagnosed with an aortic aneurism.

“I was biking 26 miles at 8,000 feet,” she said.  “I was doing handstands in yoga class.  I was really active and I was walking around with something that could kill me.  It was a complete shock.”

All of a sudden, the thought of “no tomorrow" was very real.  Cruickshank learned she would have to undergo open heart surgery.

“I had never had surgery before,” she said.  “It was terrifying.”

But it was also successful and Cruickshank is back to living her life and testing herself physically, even learning how to use a trapeze.

“I force myself to do a lot of things I had never done before like being on a trapeze or bike racing and stuff so I feel like things are back to normal,” Cruickshank said.

This brings us back to Scottsdale Healthcare Shea Treatment Center, where Cruickshank joined about 100 other heart patients to thank the teams that treated them -- and spoke from the heart about each tomorrow.

“If there is anything I can do, is to help people understand,” Cruickshank said.  “There are possibilities after heart surgery.  There is hope.”

Scottsdale Healthcare is participating in free heart screenings. Go to www.loweryourheartrisk.org to learn more.