Tami’s hearts: After surgery, and through a trying recovery, paramedic’s heart now has room to swell

By Kristy Bleizeffer Apr 24, 2015

Related story | Tami’s Hearts: Now that it's her heart that needs fixing, Tami Scott finds big courage from small pins

Paramedic Tami Scott poses in her home next to the teddy bear she took to surgery and holding a photo of her family. She has six children and six grandchildren.

Paramedic Tami Scott poses in her home next to the teddy bear she took to surgery and holding a photo of her family. She has six children and six grandchildren.

tami xray

This x-ray shows the bars that are pushing Tami Scott's sternum outward, making enough room for her heart. She'll keep the bars for several years and they will train her bones to stay in place, like braces on teeth. ‘I’ll tell you what is weird,’ she said. ‘When I put my hand on my chest and feel a bone there. I didn’t know how bad it was until my bone was put back in the right place.’

If Tami Scott could say one thing to the dozens of coworkers wearing her heart pins, to the strangers who have reached out on email and on Facebook, to the people in Cheyenne, Idaho, Douglas and elsewhere who’ve donated money and sent well wishes, she would say this: “Thank you, from the bottom of my now un-crushed heart.”

Scott, a paramedic at Wyoming Medical Center, is home in Casper recovering from a surgery to correct a birth defect that was squeezing her heart, stealing her breath and making it impossible to do her job. She underwent a specialized surgery at the Mayo Clinic on March 24. (Read the full article about the surgery and the unexpected support she found in her work family here.)

Post-operative x-rays show her heart has about three more inches in her chest cavity to migrate back to where it should be, and she’s anxious heal enough to ride bikes with her 9-year-old daughter.

Recovery hasn’t been easy. Several times, fluid built up between her lungs and the membranes that surrounds them, called the pleura. She’s been in an out of Wyoming Medical Center and doctors have drained 2,100 milliliters of fluid from her right side and 250 from her left. The metal bars attached to her ribs click and pinch when she moves the wrong way.

“It’s been worse than I expected,” she said. “The surgery was a success, and doctors were able to correct my sunken sternum almost 100 percent. But the pain has been worse than anything I’ve ever had, and I’ve had six children.

“Mayo Clinic is very good at what they do. They were able to fix me, but their patient care is nothing compared to Wyoming Medical Center’s.”

Doctors originally thought she’d be able to return to work the first of May, but it will likely be closer to the middle or end of May because of her complications.

Still, the experience has humbled the paramedic who has cared for others her whole life.

When ER nurses Jill Hildner and Jodi Kinder heard about Tami’s condition, they started the Tami’s Hearts campaign. Coworkers from every floor of the hospital, some who’ve never met Tami before, wear small heart pins on their lanyards. Friends and healthcare workers from Idaho, Cheyenne, Douglas and elsewhere called to get their own pins after the story hit local news. They’ve raised $1,400 so far, and Hildner and Kinder delivered the first chuck of money inside a heart-shaped purse held by a teddy bear that Tami took to surgery with her.

Tami Scott poses with the Emergency Room nurses who started Tami's Hearts -- Jill Hildner, at left, and Jodi Kinder. 'We love her and we’re thinking of her. We raised a little bit of money, more than anything for her is the support. We’ll be supporting her and praying for her.'

Tami Scott poses with the Emergency Room nurses who started Tami's Hearts -- Jill Hildner, at left, and Jodi Kinder. 'We love her and we’re thinking of her. We raised a little bit of money, more than anything for her is the support. We’ll be supporting her and praying for her.'

This experience has taught Tami that she is a better caregiver than a patient. She’s used to being on the other side of the bed. She likes to give the help, not ask for it and found herself too prideful and stubborn to ask for help when she really needed it. She learned, too, that pain is real. Paramedics often get called to care for patients who are in chronic pain, and this experience will make it easier to understand what they are going through, she said.

Recovering at home has been a blessing, bringing her closer to her daughter. But she’s looking forward to returning to the job she loves, with the work family who has so touched her heart through little heart pins.

“I didn’t expect this. It’s been overwhelming. I couldn’t possibly pay everyone back who has been so kind to me,” she said. “But I have to say, what has been done – oh my goodness – I will pay if forward. You can bet on that.”


WATCH: Channel 13's Amanda del Castillo caught up with Tami Scott and filed this heartwarming report.

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