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Mark Gaugler: Heart Surgery Done by A Friend

Mark Gaugler knew he had a family history of heart issues. He was regularly seeing a cardiologist and monitoring his heart health.

With Mark’s health history, he also cannot take statins because prior experience with medications to control his cholesterol caused pain in his legs.

Mark works at a private golf club where he runs the locker room. He tries to stay active during the day, but in January, he noticed he was feeling more fatigued than usual.

He talked to his cardiologist who had checked Mark’s heart for blockages in the past.

“Before there weren’t blockages, but this time there were,” Mark recalls.

He had a cardiac catheterization which discovered serious blockages. Instead of placing stents, the cardiologist recommended Mark have open heart surgery.

“I remember coming out of the cath lab and they told me I would need heart surgery,” Mark said. “It was a shock and a scary situation. Then the heart surgeon walked in and it was Dr. Ray.”

M.L. Ray Kuretu, MD, with Beebe Cardiothoracic Surgery, started the open heart surgery program at Beebe many years ago. He came from Hahnemann University where he trained many open heart surgeons. At Beebe, he has worked to build an excellent heart surgery program, which now includes three surgeons and four skilled physician assistants.

“I walked in and I said, hey, what did you do to get yourself in here,” Dr. Kuretu recalls with a smile.

Mark and Dr. Kuretu are both active trivia competitors – playing on opposing teams every Wednesday at Jake’s on the highway.

“We looked at each other and just started joking,” Mark recalls. “It really helped put me at ease and I knew I was in good hands because Dr. Kuretu is one of the best.”

Dr. Kuretu performed open heart surgery to fix the remaining blockage in Mark’s heart.

“After the surgery, I was really weak. You have to focus on each day and you improve from week to week,” Mark said. “I try to focus on following the doctor’s orders and not overdoing it. I also have my girlfriend who works to keep me on track.”

After his surgery, Mark also had a team from Beebe Home Care Services who came to his house to help him recuperate.

“Everyone at the hospital, in the ICU, and the Home Care team – they were all wonderful. And, Dr. Kuretu is great because he really tells you what to expect and tells you the importance of taking your time to recover,” Mark said. “I felt really well taken care of and now it’s on me to keep getting better every day.”

Mark is now able to walk on a treadmill and he focuses on getting a half an hour of exercise each day. He is also changing how he eats, focusing on less processed food and more fresh vegetables.

“Recovery is a long process, but I feel so lucky to have had Beebe right here because the care I received was great,” Mark said. “Dr. Kuretu can joke around with you, but he tells you what to expect which you really need when you are facing surgery. I’ve been in many hospitals and this was the best experience I’ve had.”

Visit the Cardiac & Vascular Services page to learn more.