“My pillow made all the difference in the world. I still use it today.”

Nothing’s simple when you’re facing open heart surgery for mitral valve disease. Ginger Walden Jinnette was in her 60s when her cardiologist said she needed mitral valve replacement surgery. Here’s her story.


Ginger knew she had pneumonia when she was a child, but she didn’t know she had rheumatic fever. These conditions mimic each other, but unlike pneumonia, rheumatic fever damaged her heart. It wasn’t until about six years ago that Ginger found out her mitral valve was damaged. At the time, her cardiologist told her it was stable and they would monitor her condition every year.

In September 2016, Ginger had her regular checkup with the cardiologist, and all tests came back positive. He cleared her for another year.

That evening, at home, she suffered a mini stroke. She went to the hospital and found out she’d had another mini stroke in between. The cause? A piece of her mitral valve broke off and led to the strokes. Her cardiologist determined it was time to replace the valve.

The solution

Because they determined minimally invasive surgery wasn’t an option, Ginger had open heart surgery to replace her mitral valve. Once she was out of surgery, her recovery team gave her the Shumsky Therapeutic Pillow and explained how to use it to minimize pain and reduce the risk of pneumonia.

Therapeutic Heart Pillow

“They said, ‘If you have to cough, sneeze, or breathe hard, hold that pillow.’ So I did.”

Ginger made sure to use her heart pillow after her surgeon used the picture on the front to explain her surgery. She also asked her surgeon and everyone else on her care team to sign it.

“The people meant a lot to me in the hospital, and they didn’t just sign their names. They put a little message to me. It was a good memory inside a bad memory.”

Her advice to others

“Use it!” Ginger said it really made a difference in her recovery. She didn’t go anywhere without it. In fact, if Ginger had not received her therapeutic heart pillow from Cone Health, she would have bought one for herself.

She also pointed out to healthcare providers who don’t offer the Shumsky Therapeutic Pillow to their patients, “You’re missing out.”

Ginger felt that receiving the heart pillow after her surgery made her see her quality of care differently. She felt like her surgery and recovery teams understood what she needed and the pillow’s importance.

“I truly think all people who have heart surgery need one of these pillows. But apparently, not all hospitals or doctors do that. Thank goodness, Cone Health did.”

Take-away message

“Having heart surgery has made me much healthier according to my cardiologist. Just having my little comfort zone, my pillow, made all the difference. I appreciate your making this and getting the word out.”

Is your healthcare practice taking advantage of this important comfort care measure? It’s inexpensive and easy to customize. But the benefits of patient compliance and their enhanced level of comfort far outweigh the costs.

For more stories like Ginger’s, visit our Facebook or Instagram page @therapeutic_pillows.