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Angie Sax and her father John Broer have almost identical heart surgeries just one day apart

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO COURTESY OF ANGIE SAX - Angie Sax and her father John Broer, hug 'heart' pillows given to them after open-heart surgery in early October. The pair had similar surgeries only one day apart. Of the photo, Broer noted, 'We were feeling pretty good,' and said he thinks the fact they were together aided in a speedy recovery.Almost three months after having open-heart surgery, Angie Sax is at a point where she can not only chauffeur her four children - ages 5 through 13 - around, but she can also can hoist one of her daycare children who weighs 40 to 50 pounds.

Not bad considering that on Oct. 2 she had surgery to correct a condition known as thoracic aortic aneurysm.

What’s equally amazing is that her father, John Broer, had almost identical surgery just the day before hers, and they recovered together.

“We were both born with bicuspid aortic valves,” she Angie. Most people are born with three valves and having only two eventually creates problems.

“The first three weeks (after surgery) really, really wears you out,” said Angie, 37, who grew up in Sherwood and is a 1994 Sherwood High School graduate.

Although the surgeries were long and serious, Angie said she was happy she opted to have the surgery at the same time as her father.

“We hung out every day together,” she said, adding that each of the six days in the hospital she got to say good night to her father. “We actually checked out at the same time.”

Now, the pair is completing rehabilitation programs together at Legacy Meridian Park Medical Center, and can often be found side by side working out on the treadmills and elliptical machines.

Angie said she had known for four years that at some point she would need to have open-heart surgery to correct her problem. What she didn’t know until her surgery date got closer is that she would have similar heart surgery a day after her 65-year-old father.

Dr. Jonathan Hill performed both surgeries at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center.

“He’s a really neat doctor,” said Angie.

While the surgery wasn’t unique for Hill, a cardio/thoracic surgeon, the fact he performed the surgery on father/daughter patients was.

“I would say that’s the first time I’ve done it in 30 years,” said Hill, who noted that while he’s done similar operations on related family members of the same generation, he hasn’t performed on family members spanning a generation.

Hill said there’s a strong genetic/familial link for patients who have bicuspid aortic valves. As a result, Hill put in new aortic values (a mechanical one in Angie and a tissue valve in her father) and replaced their ascending aortas with a Dacron graph.

Although fixing Angie’s value was much more involved then her father’s, he said the prognosis for both is good.

“They will continue to get better,” Hill emphasized.

The doctor said he got a chuckle out of seeing them frequently together after the surgery.

“They would have breakfast together,” said Hill, who saw both patients recently. “They look great.”

Prior to the surgery, Angie’s husband, Chris, said he was confident that the surgery would be a success.

“We felt really good because (Dr. Hill) taught other doctors how to do the surgery,” said Chris, adding that he believes that Angie’s decision to have surgery the same time as her father was a plus.

“She wanted a recovery buddy,” he pointed out.

Angie’s daughter Katie said she was nervous after the surgery because her mother didn’t look like herself.

“She was very pale,” recalled Katie. “She looks much, much better.”

Katie said she was in class the day of the surgery and was happy when she received a note at school telling her that her mother came through with flying colors.

Like Angie, her father, John Broer, is on the mend as well.

“That was quite an experience,” he said during a recent telephone conversation. “The recovery has been pretty remarkable compared to what we were told to expect.”

Broer said he was informed that it would take a long time before he even felt like he was even going to live.

“Frankly, it took about three days,” he said, pointing out that both went in with positive attitudes and both recovered fairly quickly.

A Sherwood resident since 1986, Broer said both he and Angie were something of an oddity in the hospital, always hanging out and eating together.

“It was kind of unusual from the nurses’ perspective, and they had never seen anything like it,” Broer said. “Having each other probably really helped in our recovery and our attitudes.”

The big part now is coping with Angie’s medical expenses.

While Medicare will take care of all of Broer’s surgery, the expenses are proving difficult for Angie.

Although insurance pays for much of her heart surgery, she still must come up with $15,000 out of pocket. To make things worst, the family’s debt is mounting because Angie still owes $5,000 for knee surgery after tearing her ACL, MCL, her meniscus, fracturing her tibia and dislocating her kneecap while jumping on a trampoline.

“I was on crutches for seven weeks,” she said. “I had to relearn to walk.”

by: SHERWOOD GAZETTE PHOTO BY RAY PITZ - The Sax family huddles in their Sherwood living room in November following Angie Sax's Oct. 2 surgery to correct her heart condition. Her father had similar surgery just the day before. They include, from left, Emily, 10; Sarah, 8; Angie, Chris, Nathan, 5; and Katie, 13.
While Angie said she received a little financial help from three friends who said she could spend it as she wished, she opted to make sure her children have something for Christmas.

“We were just kind of barely making it by before this,” she said. “There (are) no extra funds.”

That said, employees at Sherwood’s US Bank branch in Old Town have been doing their part, having created a “Heart for a Heart” account. The employees got into the spirit of giving as well, paying $5 each Friday for the privilege of wearing blue jeans, money that goes to Angie’s fund.

“This is all their idea,” Sax said. “It’s very sweet.”

Those wishing to donate can do so at the Angie Sax “Heart for a Heart” account (No. 153666201071) at any US Bank branch.

US Bank employees pitch it to help

In order to help offset the costs of Angie Sax’s medical needs, the US Bank Old Town branch in Sherwood helped out by allowing employees there to wear blue jeans on Friday for a $5 donation that went into an account for Sax.

“All of us at US Bank Old Town Sherwood branch feel such a connection to our community, when a story of someone local going through difficult times comes to our attention, we try to do something to support them,” said Teresa Stride, US Bank Old Town branch manager. “For the month of December, US Bank Old Town Branch is wearing Jeans on Fridays and paying $5 each to benefit Lowal Labahn, a long-time Sherwood resident (who) was severely burned at his home on Dec. 1.”

Stride said US Bank welcomes donations from the community for all the non-profit groups or individuals that the bank supports throughout the year.