Video: Pediatric Mitral Valve Leaflet Repair & My ‘Oprah’ Moment

Emotions are powerful. They surface quickly. They alter biochemistry. They transform seconds into memorable moments.

Recently, several of my emotions — thankfulness, appreciation, humility, indebtedness — appeared during a special chat with Doctor Vaughn Starnes, my surgeon. What began as a discussion about pediatric mitral valve repair, quickly turned into an emotional moment as I stood next to the man who changed my life.

Thanks to Debbie for her question and an extraordinary thanks to Dr. Vaughn Starnes for providing me a “second chance” at life.

For those patients and caregivers in our community who are hearing impaired, I have provided a written transcript of this video interview with Dr. Starnes below. I have also included another video about Dr. Starnes, his focus on pediatric surgery and his clinic at USC Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Keep on tickin!

P.S. Here’s the transcript and video referenced above.

Adam: Hi! It’s Adam and we’re at AATS in Philadelphia. We’re answering the questions that you put out on This is an incredibly special moment for me because my surgeon from Los Angeles, Dr. Vaughn Starnes, is the chairman, chief of surgery right now at USC in Los Angeles, is here in Philadelphia. Doctor Starnes performed the Ross Procedure surgery on me in 2005. This is the man who changed my life. So here’s the question and its one of his specialties which is pediatric mitral valve repair surgery. It comes from Tamara and she writes, ‘My son is 6 yrs old and needs mitral valve repair. I’m curious to know how the repaired mitral leaflets hold up as his heart continues to grow. Will he need surgery down the road after this first surgery?

Dr. Starnes: Well I think your child has an excellent chance of getting heart valve repair that is very doable. Obviously, it’s going to be determined by what the echo looks like, the mitral valve leaflet tissue and exactly what’s wrong with the valve. But in general, leaflet repairs in children hold up and they grow with the child and you shouldn’t need another operation.

Adam: Well Dr. Starnes, thanks so much for coming by, not just to the booth but for making my heart work a whole lot better.

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

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.

  • Lynda Knopf BS/RN

    DEAR ADAM,Dr.Starnes’s brief information on 11-13-11 re:mitral valve leaflet repair and leaflets compensating as a child grows is fascinating—Your initial emotional response when introducing your personal cardiac surgeon, Dr.Starnes, is most understandable!! Your gratefulness and thankfulness re his exceptional surgical skills that saved your life is touching–Cardiac patients naturally share such deep emotions and admiration for their personal surgeons!

  • Thanks for the kind words Lynda! I really appreciate your comment and your ongoing encouragement!

    Keep on tickin!

  • kim carlton

    Dear Adam, I was deeply effected when I watched this video.First, your reaction was so understandable! Second,I hope that I can do something HALF as worthwhile with my second chance at life as you have done with yours! Finally, I wonder if you know that I believe I would have the same reaction to meeting YOU, as you did being with Dr Starne. I doubt I am alone in my belief that your work has been as important to my survival as my heart surgeon. Thank you.KIM

  • Kim,

    You just made my day. Thanks soooooooooooo much for the incredibly thoughtful words. I live in Los Angeles. If you are ever out here, please let me know. I would love to meet you in person.

    Again, thank you.

    Keep on tickin!

  • Lucy Salcedo-Cruz

    Hi Adam! I have to echo the comments that Lynda and Kim said! It was very touching and very understandable. When I clicked on the video and saw Dr. Starnes, I too got teary eyed! He was my surgeon too, 2 years ago! When I have seen him, I also have the same reaction and every time I go in for a check up, I wish and hope to run into Dr. Starnes to say thank you,(again). It would be great to run into you one day too. Your book REALLY helped me a great deal. Your work is AMAZING!!!! Thank YOU!!!! Lucy

  • Steve O’Connor

    “We may affirm absolutely that nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion.”–Hegel

    You bring passion everyday to the cause of helping patients. It is that same passion and emotion that is displayed while talking with Dr. Starnes. Thanks for all your work!

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