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News: Lifelong McHenry County Resident Receives First Open Heart Surgery at Centegra Health System

The first-ever open heart surgery in McHenry County was performed at Centegra Northern Illinois Medical Center on Friday, October 27, 2006, when cardiac surgeons from Centegra performed bypass surgery on Sandra Nebel of Woodstock, Illinois. This procedure inaugurates Centegra Health System’s open heart surgery program that has been in the planning and development stages over the past year.

The surgery was performed by Jeffrey Schwartz, MD and James Gramm, MD, of Cardiac Surgery Associates (CSA). CSA is the state’s largest cardiothoracic surgery group performing over 3000 open heart procedures annually. The surgery on Ms. Nebel went very well according to the doctors. “She had triple vessel coronary artery disease which was deemed most treatable by bypass surgery,”  stated Dr. Gramm. “Ms. Nebel’s heart condition was discovered during a routine event when she came to see her doctor for a flu shot. Prior to that time, she was not aware of any heart-health issues.”  The surgery lasted three and a half hours, and the patient recovered well in the hospital.

“Today is a historic day for McHenry County and Centegra as we have brought state-of-the-art open heart surgery to the community. And most importantly, Ms. Nebel’s life was saved, and she is going home tomorrow to resume a full and active life,”  stated Michael S. Eesley, President and CEO of Centegra Health System. “We’ve known all along that it was important to have a program in place right here where people live and work so they don’t have to travel outside the community for heart surgery.” 

Sandra Nebel is a resident of Woodstock, Illinois, and has lived in McHenry County most of her life. She is the mother of three children and the grandmother of five. Ms. Nebel is very active in her community, helping seniors with their daily activities. She also works as a tutor at Woodstock Christian School and has been an active member of the Red Hat Society participating in monthly activities and meetings.

The open heart surgery program at Centegra Northern Illinois Medical Center caps off a twenty year process of building a quality heart care program for McHenry County. In the 1980s, a cardiac rehabilitation program was established at both hospitals; Woodstock and McHenry. In the early 1990s, Centegra launched a cardiac catheterization program at Northern Illinois Medical Center. In the past 14 years, over 6600 cardiac catheterizations have been performed to analyze heart conditions at the hospital.

In 2004, Centegra Northern Illinois Medical Center performed its first angioplasty procedure. This life-saving technique allows a cardiologist to open blocked arteries without an invasive surgical procedure. Many heart blockages can be treated with this technique. To date over 630 patients have received this life-saving treatment at Centegra.

“With the advent of open heart surgery, Centegra Health System brings a new era of heart care to the residents of McHenry County,”  stated Suzan Buchaklian, Executive Director of Centegra Cardiovascular Services. “No longer will area residents be required to travel long distances to academic medical centers or hospitals outside of the county for this advanced level of care.” 

Physicians and hospital staff celebrated Sandra Nebel’s “new opportunity at life”  with a healthy-heart celebration where she was honored as the first patient to receive open heart surgery in McHenry County. Ms. Nebel expressed her gratitude to her caregivers and physicians. “Everyone was wonderful. My nurses were great, and I knew I would get the best care here at Centegra. I can’t wait to get home and start living again,”  added Ms. Nebel.

Ms. Nebel and her family received several gifts from staff and hospital administration along with warm wishes for her continued recovery in the Centegra cardiac rehabilitation program.