Frustration, Nerves, Leaking Heart Valves, Test Results And Non-Surgical Options
Dan, from California, wrote me an interesting email that I could relate to whole-heartedly. Here is Dan’s email and my response:
I have always been very healthy, normal blood pressure and EKG, no problems. I am 65, low cholesterol, slender, no health history problems, and I do not smoke. Body scanning reveals no blockages.
After noticing some breath shortness after briskly walking, my doctor suggested a stress echo EKG test, which I had done yesterday. The tech and the doctor administering the test wouldn’t say anything, other than the tech saying the pictures appeared okay – a “good squeeze”.
The doctor who is going to interpret and advise me CANNOT SEE ME FOR 10 DAYS, so I am nervous about this. The technicians who did the test would not spend any time explaining the results. I’m so frustrated. If I have a client in and review his facts, I don’t tell him to wait ten days for my conclusions and suggestions, leaving him in a state of alarm, I tell him on the spot. I think these guys should have told me something, but this is the way our society has developed these various practice disciplines, so now I am waiting.
As for my job, I don’t want to pass up new work, but I don’t want to take on a year’s worth of projects if I am going to be laid-up after valve repair or related surgery. Discussions on this process and the disability period are discouraging. I am self-employed and if I don’t work, the income stops.
Can a “leaking valve” just be followed and observed for a period of time and at what point is the surgical repair/replacement required? Are there any non-surgical options? I haven’t found anything but observation and monitoring which really isn’t a treatment, just a deferral.
If something pathological or of major concern was in those pictures from the echo test yesterday, wouldn’t the doc and the tech have sent me immediately to the hospital or told me to see the cardiologist pronto?
Thanks, Adam, for whatever comments you can make.
Dan (from Los Angeles)
HERE IS MY RESPONSE TO DAN:
Thanks for writing and sharing your story with me.
So you know, I completely understand your frustration with the medical system. I could tell you a story about paying for my heart surgery that you would never forget. (Imagine signing a credit card slip as you are being rolled into the operating room! Yes, that really did happen.)
Remember, you are your best advocate to navigate through the medical system and get the information you need to make the right medical choices at the right time. I’m sure you are finding there is a lot of choices to be made specific to heart valve surgery.
As for a non-surgical approach to fixing a leaking valve, I’m afraid I don’t have much to offer you on that one. At this point in your life, regeneration of tissue to enhance valve performance is not readily or physically possible (at least from my research). While stem cell research is showing promise, that use of stem cells is about five years away.
It sounds to me like (i) you need to get your test results back, (ii) ask your cardiologist A LOT of questions and (iii) get a second opinion to confirm the diagnosis. Like you, I’m a businessman. The last thing I wanted to do was pass up new work on account of my valvular defect forcing a heart valve replacement recovery. However, looking back on it, that decision was the best move of my life.
I wish you well.
Keep on tickin!
Adam Pick is a patient, author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery and the founder of HeartValveSurgery.com.