KH . ORG 21 Donors make miracles happen Please consider a gift to help us build healthy, happy lives. Visit kootenaihealthfoundation.org. A Heart in Good Hands: Tom’s Story Tom Tamm, a Kootenai Health Heart Services patient and now regular donor to the Kootenai Health Foundation, said he would not be alive today if it weren’t for his heart surgeon, cardiologist and nurses at Kootenai Health. Several years ago, Tom injured himself at his job in a heating and cooling warehouse. This injury led to a hernia, a severe bout of pneumonia and later a blood clot that traveled from his heel to his brain. As the physicians were determining where the clot had gone, they noticed serious issues with his heart. Tom had been born with a bad aortic valve: a hole between two chambers of his heart. “Kids are born with it all the time,” he said. “Nowadays, they go in and fix it right away, and you don’t have to worry about it. I lived with it all my life—never knew it.” Tom was told that his heart valve would continue to deteriorate if he didn’t have surgery to replace it. While Tom’s situation was dire, his active lifestyle greatly contributed to his survival in spite of this abnormality. “My heart was strong because I had ridden bicycles for 30-plus years,” Tom said. “I was an avid bicyclist. That valve was just not doing its thing.” Some of Tom’s story was previously shared in Issue 1 of the Kootenai Health magazine in 2019. ‘I won’t stop’ When the day of the aortic valve replacement surgery came in 2018, Tom was admittedly nervous. “I was a crybaby,” he said. “I was really, really scared because I knew what they were going to do. But I knew I was in good hands.” Those “good hands” belonged to nurses like Cheri Ward, RN, who took care of all of his pre- and post-surgery details. “It was so nice to have her in my corner working with me,” he said. Tom was also astounded by and thankful for Cardiovascular Surgery Medical Director Robert Burnett, M.D. “He literally took my heart out of my body and, like a mechanic, rebuilt it,” he said. “And here it is. Here I am today.” Tom said he appreciates that the Foundation’s website makes it easy for him to choose the Heart Center when he wants to contribute. “I won’t stop,” he said. “I’ll do it as much as I can if for no other reason than to help perpetuate the good things that the Heart Center does so it will allow them to help someone else like they helped me.” IFT Tom Tamm removes his mountain bike from its stand before a ride.