Stroke At 52 - Need Heart Surgery

My name is Mark Pukmel, and  I’m a 53 year old working massage therapist who needs financial assistance for heart surgery due to a congenital heart defect. My wife, step daughter, and granddaughter depend on me, and I must do this for their sake as well as mine.

Seven months ago I suffered a stroke while driving to work. The stroke robbed me of some vision and I was left half blind. I lost the left periphery of both eyes. I spent 4 days in ICU at Vassar Brothers Hospital and the next 4 months enduring every test under the sun to determine the cause of my stroke. The last day in the hospital, a TEE test, which looks at the heart for any defects or blockages, revealed a large hole between the left and right atriums. In medical terms it’s called a PFO. Subsequent tests to rule out blood clots in the legs, tumors in the Thoracic Cavity, as well as any blood clotting disorders, turned up nothing. The only thing they could find was the PFO.

I was born with a congenital heart defect known as a VSD. At the age of 6, (47 years ago), I had open heart surgery to repair a hole between the left and right ventricles of my heart, which saved my life at the time. The team that operated on me saw the PFO, but assumed that it would close on its own and decided to leave it alone. The data at the time didn’t show that a considerable size PFO could cause a stroke later in life. Unfortunately, I did have a stroke and at the age of 53 am looking at heart surgery again to close this PFO.

I went for a 2nd opinion at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan and the head of the department of Cardio/Thoracic surgery agreed the hole should be closed. And the cool part is he said they can do it robotically through the ribs and won’t have to crack my sternum like they did 47 years ago. That will greatly reduce the invasiveness of the surgery and also minimize recovery time. The head of the department said “get this hole closed, put it in the rear view mirror, and get on with your life.”

The stress of the possibility of enduring another stroke at times for the past 7 months has at times been overwhelming, as the next one could be seriously debilitating or fatal. Yet during this time, I’ve managed to keep up my massage therapy practice, hoping to save enough, but it’s not working fast enough. It’s difficult reaching out as I’ve always supported myself and pride gets in the way. But, when your back is up against the wall, one must swallow one’s pride and reach out.

Although my wife, Jodi, and I have insurance, once we go out of network the deductible rises dramatically: along with the deductibles, as well as the time I’ll be out of work post surgery, I crunched the numbers and realized I must raise $ 10,000 to cover all costs pre and post surgery.

I pray that with the help of friends, family, and compassionate strangers, I can raise the necessary funds to have this defect repaired so I can continue my work in the community, serving the needs of those around me as a massage therapist.

I would like to thank each and every one of those that might consider donating to this cause so that I can go on to provide for my family - wife Jodi, stepdaughter Melanie, & baby Emma - who I love and adore so much that words could never come close to the love I feel for them.

Thank you and God Bless, Mark Pukmel
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Organizer and beneficiary

Eric LaVigne 
Poughkeepsie, NY
Mark D. Pukmel