My Annual Heart Valve Check-Up, Part I – The Echocardiogram And The Cardiologist, Dr. Ben Rosin
It’s amazing to think…
Two years have already passed since my double heart valve replacement. What an amazing twenty-four months it has been. Needless to say, I’m incredibly thankful for my health, my family, my friends and my new wife.
That said, I began my “2007 Annual Heart Valve Check-up” earlier today.
The routine hasn’t changed. First stop? Torrance Memorial Hospital for an echocardiogram and a visit with my cardiologist, Dr. “Big” Ben Rosin.
I have to admit, I was a little nervous when I approached the reception desk. Even though I feel good and I have no heart valve problems or leaky heart valve symptoms, I’m always a tad concerned that the performance of my new valves might deteriorate.
Also, I was mostly asymptomatic two years ago when I was diagnosed with severe stenosis and regurgitation in my aortic valve. With no warning signals, I found myself having open-heart surgery just a few weeks after that diagnosis.
For these reasons, this concern manifests in self-thought. Typically, that thought is a silent, “Please. Please. Let everything be okay with my heart.”
After signing in, I sat down and waited no more than two minutes before the technician called my name. I immediately recognize Gary from last year.
Minutes later, I’m lying on the examination bed with my shirt off. For some reason, the bed is very comfortable this year. 🙂
Gary grabs the special, ultrasound gel… The fun begins.
For the next 20 minutes, the GE Medical screen to my left displays gray-scale and splotchy red/blue images of my heart beating and my heart valves opening and closing.
Again, I think to myself as my feet tense up, “Please. Please. Let everything be okay with my heart.”
Just then, I see a splatter of red flow over the aortic valve. I get nervous as red can indicate back flow (regurgitation) through the valve. I would ask Gary, the echo technician, to give me immediate feedback but I know that Gary won’t say a word.
The technicians never, ever, eveeeerrrrrrrrr comment. I would have to wait anxiously for Dr. Rosin’s opinion.
When the echocardiogram is complete, I return to the crowded reception area and wait to hear my name called publicly once again.
I wait patiently thinking nothing but great, healthy thoughts.
Ten minutes go by…
I continue the wait…
Five more minutes go by… And then…
“Mr. Pick!” Laurie, the receptionist calls out. “Dr. Rosin is ready to see you now.”
I am directed not to Dr. Rosin’s office but to the echocardiogram review room. There are several monitors in the room. (I quickly wonder how many people have learned that they will need heart valve surgery in this room.)
For a very big man, Dr. Ben Rosin glides into the room almost unnoticed. Dr. Rosin cracks a familiar smile. The former USC football player takes a seat next to me. He clicks the mouse, clicks my name and then, at last, I see my heart on the Samsung-branded computer monitor.
“Let’s see how photogenic you are!” Dr. Rosin drops some humor into the conversation to ease the tension that must be written on my face.
Again, I repeat silently to myself, “Please. Please don’t let there be anything wrong with my heart.”
Dr. Rosin then does a great job of reviewing the echocardiogram with me.
He rattles off one “normal” after the next “normal”.
“That’s normal,” he says.
“Oh yah! That’s normal too!” he suggests.
He says seven glorious words, “Everything is fine. Get out of here!”
He extends his hand. We shake.
I could kiss him but I don’t.
Now, it’s time for the next step of my annual check-up. It’s time to see my surgeon.
Get ready Dr. Vaughn Starnes at USC… Here I come!!! 🙂
Keep on tickin!
Adam Pick is a patient, author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery and the founder of HeartValveSurgery.com.