Married couple has back-to-back open-heart surgeries


PORTSMOUTH- Relationships are often built on shared experiences, but Tonna and Gary Hartsock took that to another level. That’s because within six weeks of one another, they both had unexpected open heart surgeries.

It started when Gary noticed a “twitch” in his chest and neck. He ordinarily didn’t go to the hospital, but this was different. Just last September, Gary’s twin brother passed away after a heart attack. As a result, Gary decided not to take any chances. That turned out to be a good decision: Gary failed a stress test and was ultimately admitted at Southern Ohio Medical Center. Within a matter of days, he was in surgery.

The procedure went well and he was released, which is the end of the story for most families. However, after Gary was discharged Tonna began to notice something about her own health. “I could tell there was something wrong because if I had any more than normal exertion, I would be so out of breath I couldn’t stand it,” Tonna said.

Nonetheless, she pushed forward until, one day, she was at the pharmacy to pick up a prescription for Gary when one of the employees commented that she wasn’t looking well. By the time she got home, she realized she needed to take herself back to the hospital. By the next week, Tonna also received an open-heart surgery.

Today, they’re both at home and recovering. Their son has been staying with them and helping out, and Tonna says she learned a lot from watching Gary’s recovery.

“It’s easier for me because, with Gary, we had Home Health coming in around the clock,” she said. “I saw everything Home Health was doing, so I knew what to do for myself. I was very capable of doing it, so that’s what I’ve been doing.”

As for their experiences at SOMC, Tonna said she has nothing but praise. She and her family also praised Dr. Jeramiah Martin, both for his professional abilities and personal character. In a Facebook post celebrating Tonna and Gary’s successful surgeries, a family member credited Dr. Martin with saving both of their lives.

“I couldn’t say anything bad about SOMC at all,” she said. “Nothing whatsoever. It’s like family. It’s small, home-town care, doing things the way it’s supposed to be done.”

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