CMC practitioner, cardiac patient develop a special bond

Ninety-year-old Pauline Lessard was thrilled to see CMC's Tiana Bruno at her surprise birthday party.

Published 7/19/2021

As publised in the Union Leader

Ninety-year-old Pauline Lessard (pictured right) was thrilled to see Tiana Bruno, her advanced practice registered nurse at Catholic Medical Center’s New England Heart & Vascular Institute, at her surprise birthday party.

“If it wasn’t for Tiana’s care and advocacy for our mom during COVID, she probably wouldn’t be here to celebrate”, Pauline’s daughter, Sue Lemire, said in a CMC news release.

Bruno is one of NEHVI’s advanced practice providers (nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants), working alongside cardiologists, cardiac and vascular surgeons.

In early January, Lessard was experiencing some sporadic chest pain. Her daughters, Lemire and Simone Phelps of Hooksett, are both retired nurses and knew she needed to be evaluated immediately. Though their mom resisted, they persisted.

After being checked at CMC’s Emergency Department, she had an echocardiogram. The results were clear—Lessard would need to have her aortic valve replaced soon. She also received a cardiac catheterization, a procedure used to diagnose heart conditions.

Two stents were placed to hold open her coronary arteries. Finally, she was put on some medication to keep her from having a stroke, according to the CMC news release.

Before she could have her valve replaced, however, Lessard was hospitalized for other health complications. Because of the pandemic, her family members were unable to visit. Bruno became their only means of communicating with their mom.

“Tiana called us every single day. We couldn’t see my mom, so she was our eyes and ears,” Lemire said.

Bruno developed a special relationship with Lessard and said she felt responsible for seeing her through.

“I wouldn’t share her with anyone,” Bruno said.

Lessard, originally from Woonsocket, R.I., moved to Manchester in 1949 to attend nursing school at Notre Dame Hospital. She met her future husband while he was a patient there.

“My mom’s a very independent woman,” Lemire said. “She was an entrepreneur when she was young and now lives a very full life in an assisted living facility. She was failing fast, becoming depressed and deteriorating quickly.”

At that point, Bruno advocated for an immediate transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR). This is a minimally invasive approach to replace a faulty aortic heart valve.

“I told Jeff (Bleakley, MD, one of NEHVI’s interventional cardiologists) that we have to do this right away. Her organs were failing. If not now, we’re going to lose her.”

It was a difficult clinical decision. She was then 89 years old but as Bruno said, “not really 90 in spirit”. Bruno convinced Bleakley to do the TAVR the next day.

Bruno told Lessard, “We’ve got to get you out of here and home for your big birthday.” On Feb. 4, she had the TAVR.

Not only did Lessard come through the procedure well, but her health improved immediately. She was released from the hospital in time to celebrate her 90th birthday. With COVID restrictions still in place, her family decided to host a birthday drive-by party.

Lessard celebrated her 90th birthday with a long parade of cars driving by, honking their horns at Bedford Falls nursing home, and sending her best wishes. Bruno and her daughter were there as well, waving a birthday poster, their car decorated with bright balloons.

“I wouldn’t have missed the chance to celebrate her,” said Bruno, who lives in Bedford. “She’s a great lady.”

Pictured: Tiana Bruno's daughter helps decorate a sign for Pauline's 90th birthday.