Mike’s Aneurysm and Aortic Valve Replacement Surgery – A Weekly Synopsis

Mike just had open heart surgery to correct an aneurysm and leaky heart valve. I thought you might enjoy reading about Mike’s positive outcome and his incredibly positive attitude. Here is what Mike wrote to me:

Hi Adam, I wanted to thank you for your book. It certainly helped me to understand what was going to happen to me and what to expect – before, during and after heart surgery.

My Story: I went in for a routine physical last July and although I’ve had a heart murmur all my life, my doctor noticed the murmur was significantly louder. He ordered an ultrasound and sure enough it showed my aortic valve was leaking over 50 percent of what it was pumping. I also had an aneurysm in the first six inches of my upper aorta measuring 5.3 cm. I was told I should get it fixed within the next 5-to-6 months.

Patient With Incision Down The Middle Of His Chest

I am very fortunate to have selected Dr. Angelo Vlessis as my surgeon. He is a very talented and down-to-earth type of guy. I am very active and only 54 years old. We decided on a St. Jude mechanical aortic valve replacement to go with the new, replacement section of aorta. I had the surgery on December 10, 2008. The operation went flawlessly. On my 3rd day after surgery, I was up and walking at least 30 minutes each day.

Here is a quick time-line of my early recovery:

  • I went home on my 5th day in the hospital.
  • After my 2nd week of recovery, I was vigorously walking 30 to 40 minutes a day. My incision was so neat it never even developed a scab! I have no real chest pain although I did experience some rather uncomfortable back pain and cramps.
  • At my 3rd week I was able to do some light stretching of my upper body and I continue my vigorous walks and this has helped the cramps.
  • At my 4th week I actually got on my dirt bike (motorcycle) and rode it around the back yard.
  • I am now approaching my 5th week and I hope to get back to my workouts in the gym in another 2 weeks.

I also hope to be able to manage my Coumadin so that I can continue to ride my dirt bike. I will give up track riding but will continue to trail ride.

Thanks to the excellent doctors and medical team at St. Charles Heart Center in Bend, Oregon! I found the recovery from this surgery MUCH easier than I had expected. I plan on being 100 percent by my 10th week. I also need to thank my family doctor, Dr. Steve Knapp, for his alertness in discovering this condition.

My advice to anyone having this type of surgery would be to try and be in good physical condition before the surgery and after the surgery, Get out of bed and move – your body will tell you when you need to rest.

Again, thanks Adam for your heart valve book and blog. The information you have provided took the anxiety and unknown factor out of the whole ordeal.


Michael K. Ryan
Bend, Oregon

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.

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  • Jodi Carroll

    I was really excited to read your surgical experience. My husband is having his aortic valve replaced in 3 days and it was great to be able to read about your week to week recovery to him. It helped alot, as you remember how scared you are prior to surgery.
    Thank you!

  • B. Denomey

    Congratulations Mike on your successful surgery and quick recovery. I had aortic valve replacement and aortic root repair on January 5th. Though my recovery hasn’t been as quick as yours, I am slowly getting there. I think exercise is the key. I too have suffered with severe back pain and muscle cramps which is something I didn’t expect, but now read that it’s quite common. All the best. B. Denomey

  • anita devine

    hi there Mike, and thank you for sharing your inspirational story. I do face valve surgery in the next few weeks, and i wondered if you have any suggestions as to how to prepare physically… exercise, diet, etc. How much pain medication did you need after the surgery. Thanks in advance for your reply.

  • Midge

    Note to Jodi…I’m getting a new aortic valve in three days also…Friday the 13th but we’ll both have wonderful new heart valves just in time for Valentine’s Day. Hope we both sail thru as good as Mike!

  • Tom Ward

    Mike – great write up and story. I am curious why you chose the mechanical valve over the pig valve. What difficulties are you experiencing with the Coumadin? I just turned 60, and am fit and used to exercising daily. Missing my aerobic exercises until I get this fixed.

    Thanks in advance for you reply. //tew

  • George Householder

    Congrats! I had the exact same operation (except my aneurysm was a mere 4.8 cm) on 8 August 2008. Yep, 8/8/08! Guess what my new lucky number is??!! You healed a little quicker than I, but boy am I looking forward to the snow melting here in CT so I can get on the golf course next month! I feel great, sounds like you feel great also! Just wanted to tell you that each day is easier – and there are actually days that I don’t think about it or that I had the surgery.

  • Jodi Carroll

    This message is for Midge who had her aortic valve replaced on 2/13/09.
    I just wanted to see how you are doing? As I had said before my husband had his replaced on the same day. He came home after 5 days in the hospital and things are moving along quite smoothly.
    I hope your surgery went just as well as ours. Good luck for a speedy recovery!!!

  • Sonia

    Congratulations on your speedy recovery! My dad was just diagnosed today. He is 85, it seems he will be in surgery soon. What is your advice on finding the right surgeon. We are in Chico California.
    Take Care, Sonia N

  • m brenton

    i have just been diagnosed with a mild case of aortic stenosis at 41 years old. the cardioologist thanks that it is likely to be congenital. although im in the uk, im glad to know that others have got this at a younger age.

  • Midge

    Note to Jodi Carroll. Somehow missed your note to me from February 21st. Hope your husband has done well with his recovery…he sure beat me out of the hospital. Took me 10 days, but I’m doing just great, walking 30 min. 2 X day, working at our business full time and being thankful for this surgery. I spent 3 days in the CICU before stepping down to the ICU. Don’t remember a thing from the time they were wheeling me into surgery on Friday AM until I woke up in the ICU room on Monday noonish. I missed all the fun of the CICU even though my family tells me I was talking to them, but they admitted alot of it didn’t make good sense. Had a reaction to the first stitch on my zipper so had to be on IV antibiotiotics and it added an extra day to my stay. We live about 2 hrs from the hospital and I never thought a 2 hr ride could make you so tired, but when I got home all I wanted was my bed and my heart pillow. But it all passes with time, as I’m sure you and your husband know.

    Thank you for checking on me.

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