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Open heart surgery patient gives back

AnnMarie Harding visited Baystate Health for what she thought was a cold. She learned she didn’t need an antibiotic. She needed open-heart surgery.

Category: Heart & Vascular

It started with a weird cough that felt unlike any other AnnMarie Harding had experienced. So AnnMarie was checked out by her primary care physician and underwent a variety of tests in September 2017. She didn’t need an antibiotic.

Instead, AnnMarie was scheduled for open heart surgery.

Road to giving

Fast forward a month, and after the then-60-year-old was diagnosed with mitral valve prolapse, she did her homework and found that the Davis Family Heart & Vascular Center at Baystate Medical Center is nationally recognized for its high quality care. On Oct. 25, 2017, she underwent surgery to repair her heart valve at Baystate Medical Center, a decision for which she is grateful today.

“I did not realize what a tremendous facility we had here until I had a problem. Every single physician and caregiver at Baystate was so comforting,” she said. “I feel like they really helped me get through it all in the best possible way.”

Meanwhile, AnnMarie was already familiar with Baystate Children’s Hospital from her work as director of public relations for the Max Restaurant Group, including Max’s Tavern in Springfield. She serves as chair of the committee that puts together the annual Max Golf Classic fundraiser, which in the last 15 years has raised nearly $2 million to support Baystate Children’s Hospital.

A grateful patient

Fully recovered from her surgery, AnnMarie was inspired to honor the top-notch treatment she received from the medical team. So she asked her boss, Richard Rosenthal, president of Max Restaurant Group, to give the go-ahead for a new fundraiser that would specifically support the Heart & Vascular Program.

This led to The Big Cocktail Party, held in June at Max’s Tavern, which featured a host of classic cocktails, food and music. Through the generous support of the nearly 400 people in attendance, AnnMarie and her colleagues presented Baystate Health Foundation with a check for $42,000.

“I do all I can to make these events great, but I can’t do it without the support of Richard Rosenthal and managing partner John Thomas,” AnnMarie said.

Richard returned the praise.

“AnnMarie’s enthusiasm and passion for a cause or an event is compelling, contagious and infectious,” he said. “She recruits unsuspecting people to volunteer and participate with the same love and desire for victory that she has.”

Baystate Health Foundation members in turn honored AnnMarie for her philanthropic spirit by dedicating in her name the very room in which she had recovered from surgery. The plaque outside Room 6105 reads: “This patient room is a gift in honor of AnnMarie Harding.”

“To people who are philanthropic and want to channel their money and energy to a facility that is making a difference, I say all roads point to Baystate,” she said.