Kathy Magliato M.D. – Holding the Human Heart

Holding the Human Heart

Holding the Human Heart

“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”  ~ Mae West

Everyone admires someone.  Everyone has a hero.  That individual is often someone close like a mother or a father, brother or a sister.  You admire their character and their achievement in a way that impacts your life.

Some people look up to famous figures like Ellen DeGeneres, Oprah Winfrey or Bill Gates – those individuals that have left an impression by their generous and innovative actions and behaviors.  You watch what they do and try to follow their manners in some small way, you idolize them and you write down their words and pattern your life after them.

I have several heroes.  But, if I had to choose who I would be if could be someone different, I would be a combination of the three people I admire most:  Mother Teresa, Erma Bombeck (YES!  I said Erma Bombeck!  Does that make you smile?  Or do you wonder: “Who the heck is Erma Bombeck?) and Kathy Magliato M.D.

That being said and this writing platform being a heart blog, I would like to elaborate more about the life and words and actions of Kathy Magliato M.D.

When I read Kathy Magliato’s book, “Healing Hearts: A Memoir of a Female Heart Surgeon,”I immediately thought: “I want to be a heart surgeon just like her, when I grow up!”  The only trouble was that I was already “grown up!”  Darn!  Another lost possibility!  Another lost opportunity.  What is it they say?  “There was another life that I might have had, but I am having this one.”  ~Kazuo Ishiguro

Kathy Magliato M.D.

Kathy Magliato M.D

She is a strong woman with a strong heart.  You cannot help but embrace and respect her right from the introduction of her book when she talks about how she became a cardiothoracic surgeon.  It all began with Dr. Netter needing someone stat in OR seven.  Dr. Netter was a well-known cardiothoracic surgeon – “a big boy” as she put it.  And she was a general surgery intern who “had been up all night” and was “deliriously tired.”  She begins:

The nurse grabbed me and dragged me to OR 7, opened the door, and threw me in.

All hell was breaking loose inside and I hadn’t a clue what to do.  There was a lot of yelling.  People were running around frantically.  There was blood everywhere.  It looked like Beirut.  I made my way to the OR table.

One thing you need to know about blood is that it is as slippery as ice before it dries on an OR floor.  I got within ten feet of the operating table, and without looking up, the surgeon (Dr. Netter, I presume, for I had never met the man) yelled, “Get some gloves on and get over here!”  Get over where?  By you, where all the blood is shooting up?  “Oh God,” I thought, “The day is just beginning.”  I calmly (sort of) put on gloves and headed over to the tables of horrors.

Dr. Netter then said something that changed my life forever:  “Grab the heart and hold it steady so I can get a few stitches in the hole we have here.”

As I if “grab the heart” wasn’t cool enough, he also said we as if he and I were part of this operation and would handle things together.

I peered into the open chest cavity and there was the heart.

Struggling to beat.

Surrounded in a blood bath.

It looked like a large, deformed matzo ball floating in tomato soup.

I reached in firmly yet gently closed my hand around the heart and around my future.

Well, that was it for me.

Love at first sight.

Love at first touch.

I knew that this was exactly what I wanted.

To touch the human heart every day.

Mark Twain said:  “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”  That day, with Dr. Netter, was the second most important day in Kathy Magliato‘s life.

Kathy Magliato is one of the few female cardiothoracic surgeons in the world today.  She is currently the Director of Women’s Cardiac Services at Saint John’s Medical Center in Santa Monica, California.  She specializes in heart failure, heart transplantation, and artificial/mechanical heart technology.  Her story is incredible, inspiring and adds a whole new dimension to hope for the future.  She truly “holds the human heart” each day, but even more uplifting is the inspiration and courage and passion that shines from within.  The energy she emits is a testament to the human spirit.

“My life is lived through many heartbeats…these thoughts and stories are from my heart to yours. I find myself thinking and breathing and living the lives of my patients as my job here is to mend “broken” hearts.”  

Dr. Magliato has one of those powerful stories that emit the passion that make others want to be the best they can be.  Her energy is extraordinary and contagious.  She is the woman who takes a college exam one day after having a C-section!

Her spunky tenacity wins me over, and it doesn’t exist merely in the hospital setting.  Kathy Magliato M.D. is also the mother of two boys, the wife of a liver transplant doctor, philanthropist, author and businesswoman.  She juggles it all, living by the theme:  “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?”

It was that “no-fail” attitude” that spurred her forward, in spite of milestones she did not reach.  In high school, Magliato lost the valedictorian position.  She was rejected from medical school.  She remained vigilant and believed that “things happen for a reason”  Her story goes on, all citing her energetic disposition, determination and drive.

I cannot write about Kathy Magliato without stating the words that are close to her heart.  We all need to take personal responsibility for our health.  By making the right choices – choosing the right foods, exercising regularly and adopting other good behaviors as routine practices, we can help prevent many chronic illnesses, including not only heart disease, but also cancer and Alzheimer’s Disease.   I know I repeat myself, but I want you to “know your numbers”, know your risk factors, and know the symptoms of a heart attack.

Bette Midler presented an outstanding tribute at the 2014 Oscars that stirred the same emotions Kathy Magliato exudes by living her life – her passion, her self-sacrifice and her excellence in what she does every day.  I am certain Kathy Magliato is a hero, not only to me, but to so, so many.  Bette Midler sang “The Wind Beneath My Wings.”

“Did you ever know that you’re my hero?
You’re everything I wish I could be.
I could fly higher than an eagle,
’cause you are the wind beneath my wings.”

Kathy Magliato M.D., You are the wind beneath many wings.

Please watch a short clip of my hero’s story about holding the human heart.  There is no doubt – she will win you over.  She will be your new hero.



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6 Comments on “Kathy Magliato M.D. – Holding the Human Heart

  1. Wow, that is a powerful story of Dr Magliato. I have witnessed death of a loved one and can totally agree that the spirit or soul leaves the body and it is no longer the person you knew and loved that lays before you. Their soul and very being is gone. With tears in my eyes, I now am going to church for insight into how my heart should and can reach out to others and help heal their hearts

    • “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” May He heal your heart today.
      Thank you, Ida Mae. Your words touch my heart and confirm Dr. Magliato’s wisdom.

    • Yes, Theresa, Dr. Magliato’s story shows not only what an incredible doctor she is, but what an incredible human being she is. Thank you for your response.

  2. The story of Dr. Magliato is such a remarkable Dr. and human. Her story is touching. Thank you for sharing this with us!

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