Posted on June 30th, 2008 under Heart Valve Replacement, Patient Stories & Updates.
Robyn (my wife) will tell that I don’t really like to use cliches.
But, if there is one thing I have learned since my heart valve replacement surgery, it is that “there are no guarantees in life”.
Yes. I did just use a cliche. But, it is sooooooo appropriate to heart valve surgery. As you may already know, there are risks, there are uncertainties and there are surgical complications that are undeniably associated with cardiac surgery.
As we have already seen (in patient stories from Leslie Lafayette or Brad Mueller), “there are no guarantees in heart surgery”.
Recently, I received an interesting email from Brian, which emulates the twists-and-turns of heart surgery. I thought you might like to hear Brian’s story. So, with his approval, I have posted his thoughts below.
I found your website five weeks after my heart surgery. And, I recently read your book to help me through the recovery. We have a bit in common it seems:
My name is Brian and I in Orange County, California (not far from you in Los Angeles). I am 43 years old and even though I felt great, I decided to have a full physical on April 22, 2008.
Everything checked out fine… except for one thing.
An angiogram revealed a very rare congenital defect that was life threatening! I was diagnosed with an “anomolous origin of a left coronary artery” that had a 90 degree takeoff from my right coronary artery and then coursed dangerously between my aorta and pulmonary artery.
I was lucky though. I had no narrowing of the arteries or blockages. I consulted with two surgeons – Dr. Aidan Raney (Hoag Hospital) and with your surgeon, Dr. Vaughn Starnes (USC). They both agreed that I had outlived my luck!
Dr. Starnes’ schedule was quite busy. Since Dr. Raney is well respected in Orange County, so I opted to stay closer to home with friends and family.
Two hours into the operation, Doctor Raney discovered that my aortic valve had separated tissue near the wall of the aorta. According to Dr. Raney, he nearly opted for a heart valve replacement but concluded that reinforcing stitches would be sufficient to remedy the situation.
Furthermore, it was discovered that my coronary artery could not be removed (due to its proximity to the valve). so Dr. Raney opted for a very small 1/4″ bypass as a “Plan B”.
I have to say that my open heart surgery scar and ICU pictures looked identical to yours. That made me feel better. Thanks.
It’s interesting, the surgery seemed a breeze compared to the downer of recovery. During the last five weeks, I’ve had scary heart palpitations and a sudden ventricular tachycardia that landed me a visit in the ER for a night. I have also experienced cardiac depression worrying about how long my valve repair and small vein graft bypasses will last given my young age. I am thinking you went through the same thoughts. I have also been wondering if I will ever surf or scuba dive again without the fear of heart palps or weird sensations.
In my opinion, the recovery from heart surgery is way worse than the surgery.
Like you, I dumped my pain killers. I suspected the drugs were adding to my heart palpitations early on. Staying away from the medicine was tough as the chest pain kept me awake ALL NIGHT! Now I just need to deal with the whole mental aspect of worrying about a surgical repair and stop reading so many internet stats about how long valves and vein grafts last!
Thanks again for your help, your inspiration and your book about heart valve surgery!