A Very Memorable Letter From Dr. Donald Ross, Inventor Of The Ross Procedure

By Adam Pick on November 30, 2007

Last night, I drove up to my house after a very, very, very lonnnnnng day of work. The past twelve hours were filled with hundreds of emails, several conference calls, Los Angeles traffic, etc. Little did I know… My mailbox was holding a short, one page letter that would bring me to tears. I was on the phone with Rob, a good friend, as I flipped through the daily junk-mail that advertised everything from built-in cabinets, to the local Indian restaurant, to Direct TV.

Then, I saw it.


Letter From Dr. Donald Ross To Adam Pick


“I have to call you back,” I said to Rob, “There is a letter in my hand from Dr. Donald Ross.”

For those of you who don’t know me, I had a Ross Procedure Operation a few years back. Dr. Vaughn Starnes performed the complex surgery which replaced both the aortic and pulmonary valves of my heart.

After a challenging recovery, I am now doing very well. I am surfing again, scuba diving again and I just got married. To help other heart valve surgery patients, I wrote a book called The Patient’s Guide To Heart Valve Surgery.

That said, I was holding a personal note from the inventor of the Ross Procedure, Dr. Donald Ross. As I peeled back the envelope, I remembered my phone call with Dr. Ross a few weeks back. He is quite an amazing man.

The letter unfolded in my hands…

Needless to say, I was touched, moved and inspired as I read the note.

To think… Dr. Donald Ross “thanks” me for writing my book.

To think… Dr. Donald Ross writes that he will “find my book useful in explaining the surgery”.

To think…

I never, ever, ever, everrrrrrr fathomed this as a possibility. Especially, considering my thanks to him is boundary-less. Because of Dr. Ross, and his innovative thoughts on cardiac surgery, I am now living a full, healthy life again.

I should be the one thanking him, don’t you think?

Keep on tickin!

Written by Adam Pick
- Patient & Website Founder

Adam Pick, Heart Valve Patient Advocate

Adam Pick is a heart valve patient and author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery. In 2006, Adam founded HeartValveSurgery.com to educate and empower patients. This award-winning website has helped over 10 million people fight heart valve disease. Adam has been featured by the American Heart Association and Medical News Today.

Adam Pick is a heart valve patient and author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery. In 2006, Adam founded HeartValveSurgery.com to educate and empower patients. This award-winning website has helped over 10 million people fight heart valve disease. Adam has been featured by the American Heart Association and Medical News Today.

Leslie says on November 30th, 2007 at 7:00 pm

Adam, I just wanted to say hi and thank you for your fun blogs. I have your book and am facing mitral valve repair surgery, probably with concomitant maze.

When I read about Dr. Gaudiani in your blog, I was very pleased. I met with him in Monterey, where he does surgery on Wednesdays, and he was most informative, pleasant, and willing to spend a lot of time explaining open heart surgery and valve repair.

I have an echocardiogram (I get one every 6 months) this coming week and an appointment at UCLA with Dr. Richard Shemin, who also has a tremendous reputation and was recommended by my cardiologist (along with Vince Gaudiani) AND by Dr. Gaudiani! In fact, Vince Gaudiani said he would recommend four open heart/valve surgeons in California:

Himself 🙂
Dr. Vaughn Starnes, your surgeon, USC
Dr. Aidan Raney of Hoag Institute, Newport Beach
Dr. Richard Shemin of UCLA

I will keep you informed of when I choose to go forward with this surgery. I know it is something I should do and need to do and will do…fairly soon.


Adam Pick says on November 30th, 2007 at 9:35 pm

Hey there Leslie,

That is an impressive list of docs you have developed there!

Let me know if you have any questions going forward and PLEASE KEEP ME POSTED!!!



Cheryl says on November 30th, 2007 at 9:36 pm

Adam: I think this is such an wonderful complement.

Dr.’s are given God-given talents and a great deal of intelligence that enables them to fix our bodies. However, your book has given all of us that have prepared for our surgeries, survived them and now are in the healing process a source of information, inspiration and collegiality. Take the thanks and know what a good thing you have done.

I hope my physician, Dr. Vincent Gaudiani will also be referring his patients to you book. It continues to be a wonderful resource for me. Thanks again and Congratulations!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tammie Fleming says on February 14th, 2008 at 2:11 am

One last thing, my cardiothoracic surgeon William Ryan has the ad for your book on his website so that makes me feel good!

Adam Pick says on February 14th, 2008 at 2:57 pm

Really? Dr. Ryan has an ad for my book up?

Wow! That is incredible. I had nooooooo idea. Thanks for sharing.

So you know, many of my readers have gone to Dr. Ryan for their valve surgeries.

Here is a quick story about Melissa Causey, she had Dr. Ryan perform the Ross Procedure on her in Texas.

Take care Tammie!!!

Derek Patton says on June 24th, 2008 at 4:06 pm


I had the Switch Surgery when I was in eight grade. I was extremely terrified of the procedure and what it entailed and unfortunately I was informed that the outcome would not be very good considering the gravity of the procedure. Nevertheless, here I am today a senior in college studying to become a cardiologist. It is funny where life leads us sometimes and I am excited to read about your story and the letter you recieved from Dr. Ross. My goal is to personally thank Dr. Ross one day for what he has given me in terms of a NEW life. Thank you!

Derek Patton

Charlotte says on August 22nd, 2008 at 4:10 pm

I am a mother of a Ross procedure patient(now age 10)…if only I could have came across this book before my daughter had the surgery. I blindly went into this surgery not really knowing what to expect. Praise God that all is okay.
My daughters surgery was rescheduled twice in the last month…then to find out that Dr. Ross him self was there the day of surgery. When my daughters dr. told me that was why they pushed it back the last time I was thrilled. I really thought this was a fairly new procedure, I didn’t realize it had been around for as long as it has.
My daughter is doing great we are now 2 years past surgery and she is completely normal and extremely active.

Dave Harris says on September 21st, 2008 at 3:35 pm

Hi there,
I was very excited to read your comments about Dr Ross. I have met him personally, and he is such an amazing and down to earth man, and his wife as well. They make an excellent couple. He was originally from S Africa, then relocated to London. He was the first surgeon to perform a heart transplant in the UK, hot on the heels of Chris Barnard.

If you ever get to London, I am very sure he would like to meet you.
I keep in touch with them from time to time.


Dave Harris,
Cardiac surgeon, Cape Town

Pat Morris says on February 23rd, 2009 at 1:42 pm

Hi Adam,
My husband Gareth, is now 72. He had a triple bypass on our 20th wedding aniversary in 1981 and has not had to take any medication at all since that day. it was a remendous success.
Mr Ross explained, that his arteries were actually smaller than the veins he took from Gareth’s leg and that the three blocked arteries could be caused by multi factors – stress, smoking or even the soft water in Wales. Needless to say he hasn’t smoked since.
Gareth gardens, likes long walks and is generally very active and in good health. I’d sincerely like to thank Mr Donald Ross for helping us have 48 care-free years together. Hopefully we will continue in good health towards our 50th wedding anniversary in 2011. Best wishes. Pat Morris

Arlene says on March 24th, 2009 at 8:01 pm

It’s been twelve years, my cardiologist informed me yesterday, since my original Ross procedure which was perfomed by a surgeon that was recommended to me by my cardiologist in La Jolla, CA. I was 40 years old with two small children and had just relocated to southern California. Unfortunately, the surgeon was not well versed in this surgery and after a rough recouperation I struggled with palpitations for three years. Finally, I knew that I had a serious problem and that my homograph was failing. I researched the most experienced surgeon in the country in the Ross Procedure and ended up going to the Univ. of Oklahoma Med Center to Dr. Ron Elkins in the winter of 2000. He redid the entire surgery and replaced my aortic valve again and I walked out of the hospital 5 days afterwards like nothing had happened. I felt great! Now it is nine years later and although I tire easily, my heart is still going strong. They gave me an expectancy of 10 years with this valve so we’ll see how long it lasts. I am curious to read your book and see if my experiences are like those in your book.

Neil McEwan says on April 2nd, 2009 at 9:06 pm

Hi Adam

I live in the UK. Bristol, England to be precise. I was diagnosed with severe aortic regurgitation in January and am awaiting a date for my operation. I have a decision to make, not too dissimilar to the one you had to make. Basically I have to decide on either a tissue valve or Ross procedure.

I am 39 (40 on the 2nd May, great birthday present huh?). I am very fit and have been extremely active in sport all my life. I am a mountaineer and climber, most weekends I’m either summiting some mountain or 1000ft up hanging off vertical rock faces. So….to say this was a shock would be understating it somewhat! 🙂

I appreicate you can not make this decision for me, and I certainly wouldn’t expect you to. However, I’m intrigued to find out if any heart surgery patients in the UK have, to your knowledge, purchased your book?

I have spoken to Ross patients here in the UK, we have a heart forum the ‘Grown up Congenital Heart Patients Association’ (guch.org.uk) I’m sure you have probably heard of it, all of whom have great advice and have been happy to share their experiences. In fact, I have been in email contact with the first ever Ross procedure patient, his name is Martyn and 42 years later is very much alive and well.

Also, I was wondering if you have any tips on making this decision – of course I shall be purchasing an e-copy of your book, but thought I’d just ask all the same.

Many thanks and hope to read your reply soon. Please feel free to email me if you wish.

Best regards


Edward Abogede says on August 24th, 2011 at 11:20 am

I love your book, it is inspirational

Denise Smith says on March 6th, 2012 at 5:35 am

My 21-year-old son Jordan, had the Ross Procedure on October 20, 2009. It was a life-saving procedure for him, his only hope of survival. Healing was a long and difficult process for him I am happy to say he is doing well now. H was able to graduate from college, is now a High School Band Director and was married in December 2011. I cannot imagine how you felt receivning a personal letter from Dr. Ross! I often think of how thankful I am to this man who developed the only procedure that could save my son\’s life. If not for him, my son would not be with us today. Thank you for sharing your story and giving the rest of us hope.

Josie Rowe says on April 7th, 2014 at 3:53 pm

Hi Adam. Just found your site and found it very interesting. I didn’t realise until very recently that Mr Ross’ operation on me in 1975 is now termed the ‘Ross Procedure’. I have only managed 39 years since then, but I have had four children since then (all girls!). Would you know if this is at all unusual?

Josie Rowe

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