A Loose Alfieri Stitch Does Not Stop Leslie’s One-Year Anniversary Celebration!

I just received an anniversary note from Leslie Lafayette in California. I thought you might like to read how she is doing one year after robotic mitral valve repair surgery.

Hi All,

One year ago today at this time I was wired up, prepped and trussed like a big turkey, ready to be wheeled into UCLA Medical Center. I went into the operating room at 10am for my heart surgery.

Leslie Lafayette’s 1-Year Mitral Valve Repair Anniversary

Can you BELIEVE IT? As a blast from the past, consider that Heath Ledger died the day before I had my mitral valve repair and Britney Spears entered UCLA for her mental breakdown on fifth day in the hospital.

Shortly after surgery, I began a recovery period that was challenging.

I couldn’t sit up without help, string two sentences together, later gained 13 pounds, got fat ankles, went through an extensive depressive episode for months, and wondered why I had bizarre ocular aura without migraine, flashing white lights, dizzy spells, fell asleep standing up and in general felt like hammered dog poop. I tried so hard to be me, and failed.  🙂

Many – most who had never been through heart surgery – assured me that it would only take 8-12 weeks to feel like my old self. Ummm…. Laughing out loud on that one. I didn’t want to feel like my OLD self…I wanted to feel better!  With one year under my belt – during which I continued to wage (weakly) a lawsuit, continued to carry a backbreaking (and spirit draining) mortgage, homeowner dues burden on a condo I had to rebuild after a tenant destroyed it – 2008 was a tough year for so many of us.

In November, 2008, after a 3-D Trans Esophageal Echocardiogram at UCLA, we discovered that my valve has lost the Alfieri stitch (one of five anchor stitches holding my repaired mitral valve in place) and now I once again have moderate (but not severe!) leakage in the mitral valve but with careful control of blood pressure and proper meds, it is remaining under control. So, we will go along and test valve function every six months and hope for the best because if it doesn’t, I may have to face all of this again. There are no happy endings sometimes.

Leslie With Her Surgeon – Dr. Richard Shemin

OPEN HEART BYPASS SURGERY – as my cardiologist warned me in his most somber of tones (he isn’t much of a somber kinda guy) – is NO PARTY!!!  No kidding. I really don’t recommend it, but if you must… Know that it is survivable and ultimately CONQUERABLE.

Life is better, a year later. More smiles. More energy. More work. More play. And of course, MORE OBAMA!!!!  (sorry for the political message, but yaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyy) It has done my heart good.  🙂

For those of you who hung with me in this difficult year, I will always remember your friendship and your patience. I know I haven’t been “all there.” It has been a struggle that one only truly recognizes when looking back.  But I am and happy to be so.

And, thanks again Adam – for your heart valve book, your blog and your emails.


Adam Pick
Written by Adam Pick

Adam Pick is a patient, author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery and the founder of HeartValveSurgery.com.

To learn how Adam has helped millions of people with heart valve disease, watch Adam's video, subscribe to his free newsletter, or visit his Facebook, or Twitter pages.

  • Candace

    Well great news Leslie- Happy 1st heartaversary! Kudos on your tenacity!
    I am confused about exactly what process was done here. Mitral valve repair plus coronary artery bypass graft? I have a Cleveland Clinic consult to hear the plan
    in the grand scheme of things for my 4+ mitral valve regurgitation.
    I do have alot of confidence in Dr. William Stewart there, so if it has to be repaired….. Great place to go for surgery no doubt!
    Thanks for sharing your story.

  • Paul

    Congratulations Leslie, I am almost five months post aortic valve transplant. I feel great and am have been back at work for nearly four months. I actually thought I had no complications left, but you mentioned, “I had bizarre ocular aura without migraine, flashing white lights,” I have been having the same flashing lights and auras for the last two months or so. Never saw that related to the surgeries… is it? anyone have any other info, and will it go away? Thanks and congratulations on the year!

  • Maribel

    Hi there!! I am a caregiver, my husband had open heart surgery for a Mitral Valve Replacement on Feb 18th 2008, he’s almost a year and doing just fine, more than fine!!! He did’t had any complications of any kind and we’re just grateful he had this second chance in life. Leslie I followed your case since I discovered wonderful Adam’s Blog a year ago and I know you’re going to be better each day. I was reading about your thing with the auras and the flashing lights and I found this on the MAyo Clinic Web Page , Paul check this out:
    See you soon!!!
    Maribel (from Maribel and Sergio)

  • Hi Leslie- Congratulations. I am in that nether world of post diagnosis and pre surgery. It seems I must get sicker or symptomatic before the surgery will be done and honestly the waiting is a tad stressful – It was very uplifting to read your story – you have been through a great deal- It is important to know what lies ahead so that it can be faced with knowledge and optimism – you really have the optimism thing down, thank you.

    On Obama, I am a Chicago girl and had tickets for the Election Day celebration in Grant Park. It was amazing and uplifting and all of the things that were conveyed on TV. Speaking of optimism, I think we can make this a new beginning on many levels-for our hearts and souls. Stay well and thank you for your story.

    Kathleen Fischer fischerfineart.com photography

  • nancy mallinger

    Hi Leslie–

    Congratulations on your anniversary!! I am three months post aortic valve and aortic root replacement. I also had a tough time with surgery and have spent much of my recovery time with fat ankles (and thighs and stomach). I couldn’t even fit into a sweat suit for three weeks. I am still having visual auras. I don’t know what causes them, but I do think that many post OHS patients have them. They are annoying, aren’t they? I have also found that after the first couple months. everyone expects me to be all better, and nobody wants to hear any complaints any more. I really am feeling pretty well, but there are so many little things that hurt, itch, or bother me, but I don’t want to talk about them. There doesn’t seem to be a day that goes by that I don’t think about the surgery. Do you still think about it all the time? YAY for OBAMA!!

  • Leslie Lafayette

    To everyone….THANK YOU for such nice responses! It makes such a difference when we hear back from Those Who Have Been There, or might be going there…hang in there,Kathleen. I am fascinated to hear about the migraine auras and flashing lights etc. I absolutely do believe that my eye issues are from the surgery. I also had to be on some Amiodarone (which is an antiarrythmic) for a short bout of atrial fib I had after my mitral valve repair surgery, no grafts, and ASD repair. It converted quickly but had to be on these pills a couple of months and believe me, they have a high side-effect profile and I know they also can affect the vision.
    Thank you for the link,Maribel! I am going to check it out.
    Cheers to you all and thanks, Adam!

  • Sherri Hendry

    Hi Leslie,

    Congratulations!!! I am3 weeks today post MV repair surgery. And I must say am doing fantastic, not much side affects at all. In fact went back driving 1 week after being released from the hospital. On your auras…did your doctor say they were directly related to your heart condition? I have had auras the most of my life – pre surgery and doctors seem to think they were related to the change in the atmosphere (pressure) …so far (knock on wood) I have not had any post surgery, of course it’s only been 3 weeks. But I know what you all are going through. I’ve even had gray spots…where your sight just turns to gray. When I would have the auras…I had a short window of time (like 20 minutes) to take something before the crippling pain would strike. I wish you a better 2009 and again Congratulations!

  • nancy mallinger


    Can’t believe you said that about the gray spots–that happened to me last week for the first and only time and really freaked me out. The gray spread throughout one eye until it was all gray except for an area as small as a pinhead. It probably lasted only a minute, but it was very scary. My auras are not followed by any pain and come every week or so. It’s great to know that these things happen to other people also.

  • Mary

    Just a little side note: One night while walking across a dark parking lot I suddenly saw what looked like exploding flashes and just dismissed it. Then, a few days later I started to see grayish floaters in just one eye. Long story short, it was my retina beginning to detach and required over 140 laser stitches to repair. My vision was saved. Never ignore seeing flashes of white light. Go to an eye doctor if it happens.

  • Laura

    hi leslie.
    can i ask you a question? you wrote “wondered why I had bizarre ocular aura without migraine, flashing white lights, dizzy spells.” i get them too and don’t know why, didnt think they were related to the surgery. Are they? how?
    laura (double valve replacement on 9/24/08)

  • Leslie Lafayette

    Laura I hope you see this – I did not see your comment until now, a month later! I am still exploring why there are such vision problems related to heart surgery. I have many vision problems that come and go. I notice stress REALLY affects this. I had two ocular migraines in one day recently – one in each eye it seemed – and flashing lights. It was a busy weekend. Hang in there. We will get answers, I hope.

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