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Kent State nursing student reunites with pediatric cardiologist who saved her life 20 years ago

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Posted at 7:49 AM, Mar 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-15 07:49:29-04

AKRON, Ohio — Bouncing back from a serious health scare to help those in a similar situation. A Kent State University nursing student's life has come full circle after she met the Akron Children's doctor who saved her life.

Her incredible journey started at Akron Children's Hospital more than two decades ago.

“It kind of all went back to me owing my life to health care professionals," said Bernadette Fresty.

The 21-year-old was born with a heart defect that prevented the left side of the organ from fully developing.

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Bernadette Fresty.

"The left side of your heart is responsible for pumping blood to the rest of your body. It’s a very serious defect," said Fresty.

A series of surgeries to redirect the blood flow and bypass the problem area helped save her life.

"I'm very fortunate to be doing as well as I am and to not have any serious complications," said Fresty.

Throughout her entire journey, pediatric cardiologist Chandrakant Patel was by her side.

"A very important part of my childhood growing up. My family loves him," said Fresty.

The pair recently reunited.

This time though, instead of Fresty needing care at Akron Children's, she was helping provide it as part of her pediatric nursing class at Kent State University.

"Obviously I was very excited about this," said Fresty.

Bernadette was surprised the cardiologist remembered her immediately.

"That was the first time I had seen him since I was 12 or 13," she said.

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Bernadette Fresty.

Facing a survival rate of 40-50% as a baby, Patel understands the significance of the reunion.

"It is very gratifying that she is doing so well, and she decided to choose the medical field," said Patel.

Patel said doctors and nurses who go through the health challenges, like what Fresty faced, have a better understanding and offer that unique perspective.

"They can relate in a much better way to the other family members. It is a testament that you know, look at this, what she has gone through and she's now providing care to other children," said Patel.

The source of hope Patel provided Fresty is what continues to inspire her as she prepares to help children and their families facing similar challenges.

"My mom would always tell me to be brave. Every time i would go in before a procedure or surgery she'd say be brave Bernadette, be brave," said Fresty.

Once she graduates next May, Fresty plans to apply for a job at a handful of hospital systems across Northeast Ohio.

She said Akron Children's will of course be getting a resume for the significant role it played in her life.

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