CLEVELAND (WJW) – Her heart, still intact. And now, a permanent, yet unique show of gratitude.

Right there on the left forearm of Kathleen Black, 55, a tattoo image of her own heart rhythm and the name of the University Hospitals doctor who saved her life.

“I had no energy, I couldn’t ride my bike, it was terrible,” Black said.

It was a year ago, Black, a mother and grandmother of two, had a mild heart attack, stemming from a bad aortic valve which meant blood wasn’t flowing freely through her heart.

But her condition didn’t come as a complete shock.

“My grandfather had heart disease at 46, he had passed away,” Black said. “And I also had three brothers who had passed away of massive heart attacks.”

Black was terrified to undergo open heart surgery, that is until she met Dr. Cristian Baeza, a cardiac surgeon at University Hospitals Harrington Heart and Vascular Institute.

“He fit me in his schedule, and got me into surgery cuz if not, I would’ve died,” Black said.

Kathleen Black shows off her tattoo (WJW photo)

“So when we finally meet in person actually, it was the day of the operation,” said Dr. Baeza.

Just hours after undergoing the aortic valve replacement surgery, the retired caregiver made a bedside promise to Dr. Baeza, one he wasn’t exactly on board with due to the risk of infection.

But now, the tattoo is something he and his entire team are proud of.

“It was just amazing. I thought it was funny,” the doctor said. “I sent the picture first to my wife and my kids and then I sent it to these guys and said ‘ok, I’m in the tattoo group now.'”

It took Black’s son, who is a tattoo artist, just 30-minutes to create the permanent mark.

Both doctor and patient now forever connected.

Baeza said, “…it touched me.”

Black adding, “It feels so great to get out and enjoy life now. I can get out and do things I could never do before and it feels so good.”