David Shifts From Edwards Lifesciences’ Employee To Patient

Some may call David’s story ironic. I call it fantastic. That said, I thought you might find this unique story of interest. Here is what David wrote to me:

Hi Adam,

I just had my calcified aortic bicuspid valve replaced with an Edwards Lifesciences pericardial (bovine) valve on October 28, 2009. I also had a single mammary bypass for a calcified lesion in my LAD coronary artery. I am 69 years old. I think I have a little different perspective on all this as I worked for and retired from Edwards Lifesciences, the world’s largest heart valve replacement manufacturer, after 33 years employment.

David Swendso, Heart Surgery Patient with Dr. Bethencourt
David Swendson With Dr. Bethencourt – Discharge Day!

I was a product development engineer starting work at Edwards in 1965 when it was a very small company. I worked on the earlier Starr-Edwards prosthetic heart valves and later, on all sorts of other heart related products.

I knew a lot about artificial heart valves, but did not know much about preparing for or what to expect following heart valve surgery. I discovered your blog site and got your heart valve book. It was a great help in preparing me for the surgery and afterward. I really thank you for that.

Edwards Lifesciences Bovine (Pericardial) Aortic Valve

I had my surgery done at Long Beach Memorial Hospital in California. My surgeon was Dr. Daniel Bethencourt, a very experienced heart surgeon and really nice person. He does quite a bit of minimally invasive heart surgery using the Da Vinci robotic system. Instead of using this approach for my valve, he did it the “old fashioned way,” a median sternotomy so he could also do the bypass that I needed.

Dr. Daniel Bethencourt, Heart Surgeon
Dr. Daniel Bethencourt

My recovery has been going well. My only real problems are heart palpitations and A-fib, which is not that uncommon following this type of surgery. Medicine is controlling these for now, but if my heart doesn’t revert on its own to normal sinus rhythm in the next couple of weeks, I will have to have an electrical cardioversion done on me.

Other than that, I really feel good and am walking 1-1½ miles a day.

Thanks for your heart valve surgery book and all that you do!

David Swendson
Garden Grove, CA

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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  • bob caruso

    Dear Adam,
    I an 67 years old and will have aortic valve replacement surgery early next year. I must choose between a mechanical vs biological valve and would like to contact Mr. Swenson re his decision. IF possible, perhaps you could ask him to e-mail me at the address above, or phone me at 702-455-4211.

    Appreciatively, Bob Caruso

  • Carol Lang

    I totally relate to your experience. In June 2008 I had a CarboMedics mechanical AVR. I am a RN currently in Nursing Administration. When I had the surgery I was a patient in the same ICU I worked & took Charge of 30 years ago! They say that we reap what we sow, but this is a bit much! I must say however, I felt secure & safe waking up in “my Unit”. Sure is a lot different when it’s you lying in that bed!
    Have a speedy recovery. That atrial fib is NOT fun. I was in it for 12 hours one day & finally the IVmeds kicked in & converted me.
    As Adam says,
    “Keep on tickin!”

  • I also have the Edwards bovine valve and my surgery was done the “old fashioned way” July 21st in San Diego by Dr. James Hemp. I also had the mammary bypass. Things are going well with the exception of depression which seems to have come on me in the last month. I am dealing with it and know I will come out of the woods soon. So glad your surgery went well. I am 65.

    Phyllis Cooke

  • David Swendson

    To Bob Caruso:
    My answer to your question is that my choosing the tissue (biological) valve over a mechanical is based on 3 things: 1) Tissue valves do not require Coumadin (warfarin) for the rest of your life, 2) Mechanical valves with their hard carbon disks make an audible “clicking” sound, & 3) the specific tissue valve I chose has up to 20 years durability experience with havin further improvements on it. Mechanical valves have more years of proven experience, but at my age the tissue valve is appropriate.

    David Swendson

  • Steven Reinstein

    Dear Dave;
    great story.. I too had my calcified Aortic bicuspid valve replace 7/29/09.. I have since had one bout with A-Fib, went on the meds for two months and am now off and doing fine. I go to cardiac Rehab three times a week. It’s gong to take a while to get any muscle strength back in your upper body so give it time. The cardio however is great. keep walking and don’t over do it.
    Have a great Holiday

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