​​​​​​​​​​Image of Rebekha Hughes
“Dr. David, you have had made an extraordinary difference in my life,” Rebekah Hughes writes in a letter to Dr. Tirone David, who performed surgery on her heart in the summer of 2014. (Photo: Rebekha Hughes)​

hearth month logo​Her arrival atop an operating room table in 2014 may well have been the easiest part of a harrowing healthcare journey endured by Rebekah Hughes since she was a young girl.

Diagnosed with a rare form of cancer as a child, the young mother learned in 2012 that she had aortic stenosis, a blocked heart valve. It made simple tasks almost impossible, leaving her unable to walk. What's more, the complexity of her condition made what would typically be a straightforward medical procedure, even more delicate and dangerous.

Enter internationally-acclaimed heart surgeon Dr. Tirone David, a pioneer in his field and father of "The David Operation," the first aortic valve-sparing operation to treat an aortic root aneurysm.

Image of Dr. Tirone David
Dr. Tirone David of the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre writes in response to Rebekah that the 80 days she spent in intensive care due to respiratory failure “were extremely difficult for both of us.” (Photo: PMCC)

Dr. David feared for Rebekah, now his patient at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre. He was tasked with fixing her heart valve but worried that she would not survive the procedure.

Rebekah did survive, as Dr. David and his multi-disciplinary surgical team succeeded in giving the young mother of three a second chance. Propelled by gratitude, she wrote the surgeon a personal letter.

Heartfelt is the only fitting way to describe Rebekah's letter. She posted it on her blog with photos of various points throughout her journey.  Each of them, despite her weak and depleted state, show a wife and mother smiling broadly with her three young children nearby.

Marvelling at the strength of his patient and moved by her gesture, Dr. David wrote a response.

From Rebekah's letter

​"I was not going to be an easy patient, even for one of the most talented, brilliant, creative and innovative heart surgeons in the world. But I went online and read about the David Procedure—the heart procedure named after you. I felt very privileged and humbled to be in your care."

From Dr. David's letter

"Thanks God you recovered and went home to your wonderful husband and children. You are an exceptional woman with a rare strength, magnificent character, and an inspiration to all of us."

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