Imagine your childhood dream of becoming a professional basketball player has come true. Imagine you are leading the NBA in 3-point shooting. Imagine you are in the prime of your career. Then… Imagine you are unexpectedly diagnosed with a life-threatening aortic aneurysm due to a bicuspid aortic valve.
What would you do? How would you handle it? What would you tell your family? What would you tell your team? Which valve replacement would you chose? This is the story of Fred Hoiberg…
Charlotte Cummings, 81, could no longer walk the streets of Chicago due to shortness of breath and fatigue. She suffered from severe mitral valve regurgitation and other health concerns. Unfortunately, Charlotte was not a candidate for mitral valve surgery due to the risks associated with traditional surgical approaches.
Then, Charlotte’s medical team told her about the MitraClip, a new transcatheter mitral valve repair (TMVR) device. This is her story…
Many thanks to Charlotte for taking the time to meet with me and share her story. I would also like to thank Dr. Chris Malaisrie, Dr. Mark Ricciardi and Dr. Mehlman for their wonderful care of Charlotte at Northwestern.
P.S. For the hearing impaired members of our community, I have provided a written transcript of this video below.
Charlotte Cummings: My name is Charlotte Cummings. I’m originally from New York and have been in Chicago for 57 years. I am 81 years old. I’ve always tried to walk a lot, and I would normally do 10, 12, 15 blocks around, no problem. When things got bad, I would walk half a block and lean on a wall to catch my breath. My main symptoms were shortness of breath and fatigue. Sixteen years ago, I had a quad bypass and then I’ve always had slight to moderate mitral valve prolapse. Then four or five months ago, it went to severe.
Dr. Mark J. Ricciardi: People with severe mitral regurgitation often have symptoms that creep up on them. Many of us seem to accommodate any kind of symptoms we have and we adjust our lifestyle. People with severe mitral regurgitation, they develop heart failure.
Dr. S. Chris Malaisrie: Miss Cummings had mitral valve prolapse. Typically, we would offer open heart surgery with mitral valve repair for patients like this. Miss Cummings was not a candidate for open heart surgery, so hence the MitraClip therapy was an excellent option for Miss Cummings.
Dr. Mark J. Ricciardi: The MitraClip is a device that was designed to bring together the two leaflets of the mitral valve. When mitral valve disease is resulting in regurgitation, the mitral leaflets don’t come together fully. This is almost like an alligator clip that fastens the two leaflets together, to avoid them from being overly redundant or flopping too much, which can result in regurgitation or back-flow of blood.
Charlotte Cummings: I was grateful when I heard about this because there was no way I was going to go through an open heart surgery again; I’ve had enough. I was very grateful, believe me!
Dr. Mark J. Ricciardi: The MitraClip therapy does not require surgical incision. It does require placement of a small catheter, typically through the groin, which does not require any sutures or staples to close. Mostly the patients can go home the next day or the following day after the procedure.
Charlotte Cummings: After the procedure, I really immediately felt very well. I was out and wandering around and doing more distance than I was able to do in the months prior to the procedure. It was wonderful, just wonderful.
Dr. S. Chris Malaisrie: Miss Cummings is doing great. We’ve talked to her on the phone. We’ve seen her back in follow up of course. She’s a different person. She’s very upbeat. She’s the way she should be. She’s now got a competent mitral valve; she can go about her business.
Charlotte Cummings: I would particularly like to thank Dr. Ricciardi, Dr. Malaisrie, and Dr. Mehlman, my primary cardiologist. Wonderful men, very attentive and I’m grateful to them, truly. I think anyone that has this situation with the mitral valve would be very wise to speak to their cardiologist about it. I have friends that have done this and I know that their lives are greatly improved as well. It’s so very simple! When you consider what they’re doing to improve your life, there’s really not much to it, a night or two in the hospital. My gosh, for me that’s nothing.
As we prepare to enter 2016, I thought it might be helpful (and fun) to look back at the stories that inspired us, educated us and moved us to share our heart valve experiences.
10. The Heart Valve Summit Gets Big Applause
In October, we were very lucky to attend the Heart Valve Summit, a special conference where 500+ surgeons, cardiologists, nurses, and medical professionals gather to discuss the latest therapies to treat heart valve disease. When we posted several pictures from the 3-day event in Chicago, our community quickly responded with appreciation and thankfulness as 950+ people ‘Liked’ our photos at Facebook. To see the photos, click here.
9. Linda Returns To Her Garden!
There is nothing better than a great patient success story. So, in February, our video team traveled to Indianapolis, Indiana to meet Linda Kincaid and her daughter, Kristen. This educational video was sponsored by the Alliance for Aging Research which recently launched LivingWithValveDisease.com, a new website for seniors with heart valve disease. Upon posting Linda’s video, this wonderful story racked up over 1,000 Facebook Likes. (Fyi, Linda’s surgery was performed by Dr. Marc Gerdisch.)
I received several great questions during our ‘Ask Me Anything’ video series at the Heart Valve Summit. For example, Pamela posted at our Facebook page, “Can you talk about Atrioventricular Block after heart valve surgery?”
To answer Pamela’s question, I was very lucky to connect with Dr. Robert Bonow, the former president of the American Heart Association, one of the lead authors of the 2014 Heart Valve Management Guidelines and a Professor of Cardiology at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago. So you know, Dr. Bonow is a great guy who has treated many patients from our community.
Here is Dr. Bonow’s response to Pamela’s question…