Leslie Readies For Robotic Mitral Valve Repair

By Adam Pick on January 12, 2008

There’s nothing better than helping patients and caregivers prepare for and recover from heart valve surgery. The stories of Jim Bonk, Taylor and Michelle Browning, and Kathy Benson are both inspirational and heart-warming.

Over the past two months, Leslie Lafayette (pictured below) and I have emailed back and forth about the fears, the risks and, of course, the pain of cardiac surgery.

Together, we have settled those fears and doubts – even the overwhelming concern about the vent tube post-surgery, right Leslie?

Well…. I just want to let you all know that Leslie has selected a heart valve surgeon, a heart valve procedure and an official date for her mitral valve repair. I have to give Leslie a lot of credit. Her research, specific to her upcoming operation, has been incredibly detailed.

Early this week, I received another interesting email from Leslie that shares her unique, patient perspective about her mitral valve surgery. I thought you might like to hear some of the steps that Leslie is taking to prepare for heart valve surgery.




Email From Leslie

Hey Adam,

Just wanted to let you know I did hear from Dr. Shemin from UCLA today. He was able to read my films, at last, and reconfirmed that he feels that surgery is a good call at this time.

Dr. Shemin says I have ‘severe’ mitral valve regurgitation, but that the ventricles and all else are doing well and no major damage appears to have occurred yet.

For candidates of robotic heart surgery, Dr. Shemin uses the Da Vinci Robotic System, as I told you, and so I have decided to put my patient frustration with UCLA’s huge facility aside and schedule my surgery for Wednesday January 23, 2008.



Wednesdays are the days that the cardiothoracic unit at UCLA has access to the Da Vinci Robot. Dr. Richard Shemin says he assembles “the A team for the robot surgery.”

I will go to Westwood on Monday the 21st, have an angiogram on the 22nd and all pre-op work, and GIT ‘R DONE on January 23rd.

They tell me 5 days in the hospital but I am hoping for 4

I hope Dr. Shemin is able to use the robot. Dr. Shemin says it appears he should be able to both REPAIR (not have to replace) the valve and use the robot but only when I am on the table and have the TEE will they know absolutely.

So… Despite the long waiting time and the long drive, it seems to make the most sense to me to use Dr. Shemin because of his outstanding reputation, and the Da Vinci robot. I am really wanting to use that robot and avoid a sternotomy if possible.

I will keep in touch through this process. I plan to keep a diary – and here goes, Leslie’s Mitral Valve Repair Journey! I am grateful you are there.


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 January 14th, 2008 at 3:45 pm

Hi Adam,

Wow… thanks for the star treatment! Hey, do I have to have bypass surgery to get all this attention? 🙂

I did want to share a couple of things I’ve been learning along the way.

I have spoken with three surgeons who are all well known and proficient at mitral valve repair surgery and all three are different in the way they approach what the patient needs to do PRIOR to surgery.

I really liked my surgeon’s approach. I believe that the fewer invasive tests we have to put ourselves through, the better. The other surgeons I spoke to said I would have to have an angiogram (cath procedure) prior to surgery to rule out any coronary artery disease. If I *did* have blockages they would then address those during my mitral valve surgery.

Dr. Shemin said I could have a 64-slice coronary artery CT scan. This is such an easy test on the patient. You do get contrast dye intravenously during the test but it is of short duration and the “discomfort” is practically non existent. You might feel a little warm. This amazing scan can do a 3-D reconstruction of your arteries and show if there are any calcifications/blockages.

My test came back clear, so my surgeon said I did NOT need to have an angiogram. This spared me a lost day at the hospital, anesthesia, a groin incision, and all the rest that goes with the cath procedure.

Also, some surgeons want you to have a TEE (trans esophageal echo) before surgery. But two of the surgeons I spoke with said it is sufficient to have the TEE while you are on the table, since they do that procedure anyway once you are under anesthesia.

These are two invasive tests that possibly can be avoided – it all depends on your own circumstances and your surgeon, but I have been very glad not to have to go through either of these pre op. It is enough to deal with the surgery itself. So shop around, do your homework, read everything you can online, talk to different surgeons, and make your choices.

Just thought I’d share.

As always, thanks for all you do. It means so much.


Christine says on January 16th, 2008 at 2:16 pm

Hi Leslie,

I am so glad that I finally found a website/blog that talks about valve surgery and all of the stuff that we go thru! I am awaiting surgery on February 5th at Sharp Memorial Hospital in San Diego. I have severe mitral valve regurgitation, a vegetation that grew on my mitral valve from a bacteria I got from food poisioing & a broken “chord”. Also, my aortic valve is questionable at this time.

I really have had no one to talk to that is going thru the same thing! My husband & Mom count, but you know what I mean (it isn’t happening to them!).

I have a CT Angio scheduled for Thursday the 17th. I am glad that my doctor is sparing me the other angio test as well. I’ve had two TEE’s done already & will have another one “on the table”. Did you hear things during your TEE?

I wish you well in your surgery & for a fast recovery! I hope to be out of the hospital fast, like yourself. I’m not really sure how the whole “blog” thing works so I hope to hear back from you in one way or another.

By the way, you look great in your picture!
Sincerely, Christine

Jeff Hanna says on July 9th, 2008 at 1:04 am

Hi Christine: How did your surgery go? I have Mitral Valve Prolapse and have an appt. soon with a highly recommended heart surgeon at Sharp Hospital, so would enjoy hearing that your operation was successful and that you are doing well.

Sincerely, Jeff

Diane says on November 25th, 2008 at 3:17 pm

Good luck to both of you. When I was 18 years old I happened to have a chest xray for a receptionist job at a hospital. They found a tumor the size of a man’s fist attached to my trachea that turned out to be benign. Dr. Shemin removed it at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and did a wonderful job. The surgery was the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced but it was worth it. I am now 40 years old and healthy.

Diane from Boston

Leave a Reply

Newest Community Post

Andrew says, "Wow. Exactly how I feel. What I feel I"
Read more

Robert says, "Wondering when the chest pain went away"
Read more

Greg says, "Hey gang! Just got back from the"
Read more

Find Heart Valve Surgeons

Search 1,500 patient-recommended surgeons