‘Forever grateful:’ Heart surgeon treats husband and wife


Aleida and Jeff Vekony are always by each other’s side — even at cardiac rehab.

Aleida Vekony doesn’t remember the near-fatal heart attack she had in December 2021 but her husband certainly does.

“I found her laying completely lifeless on our kitchen floor,” he said.

He immediately started CPR.

“It just kicked in. I literally didn’t even think about it,” Jeff Vekony said. “It was within a couple minutes our kitchen was full of police, fire, EMTs. And they took over and they had to give her the electrical shock twice in our kitchen.”

Aleida Vekony was ultimately transferred to Central DuPage Hospital in heart failure. Her angiogram showed the extent of damage.

The 59-year-old needed surgery — five bypass grafts — to restore blood flow and pumping function. But the condition of Aleida Vekony’s heart posed a significant challenge.

Dr Gyu Gang is a cardiac surgeon with Northwestern Medicine.

“Any operation you need anatomic suitability you have to be able to sew and do the bypasses. But her arteries were so calcified,” he said.

“They read my results and Dr Gang was the only doctor that was able to, get a little emotional, to fix me,” Aleida Vekony  said. “He said, ‘I’ve got a couple tricks up my sleeve.’ And I’m like, ‘Ok, let’s go for it.’”

Before he could sew the grafts, cardiac surgeon Gang had to clean out Aleida Vekony’s arteries.

“Your artery should be like a bucatini a pasta that has a hole,” Gang said. “But in her case, she was a spaghetti. There was no hole. The solution was to do something called a coronary endarterectomy, which is rarely done in America, where you actually shell out the artery. That was the only option for her.”

“And he saved her life,” Jeff Vekony said.

The emotional experience inspired Jeff Vekony to get his heart checked out. They discovered 80% of his left main artery was blocked. Like his wife, Jeff Vekony also needed open heart surgery – a quadruple bypass.

“We have matching Dr Gang signatures now,” he said.

“Through the grace of God, I’m here and I’m forever grateful that he was able to save my life,” Aleida Vekony said. “He took me on and I will always remember him. I’ve had another year with my family and more years to come.”

“It’s shocking to go through, but now that we look back we cherish life more than we did in the past,” Vekony said.

The Vekonys finished up cardiac rehab last week and both are doing well. Since performing open heart surgery on the husband and wife, Gang did the same for a mother and daughter — a first in his career.

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