“My Momma Always Said… Valve Surgery Is Like A Box Of Chocolates.”

By Adam Pick on March 12, 2008

Yes, Forrest Gump is one of my favorite movies.

That said, I had to borrow that famous line for this very rare patient story about Brad Mueller. In case you can’t remember the complete movie quote, Forrest Gump said in the movie, “My momma always said life was a like a box of chocolates. Ya never know what you’re gonna get.”

Forrest Gump

Brad and I started emailing each other a few months ago. Brad had read my book and had some additional questions about stamina after heart valve replacement.

On February 29, Brad went in for an aortic valve replacement. Brad’s surgeon was Dr. John Oswalt from Austin, Texas. Like me, Brad had a bicuspid aortic valve with an erosion due to endocarditis. Over time, the endocarditis had severely compromised the integrity of the aortic valve.

As for Brad’s surgical option, he selected the Ross Procedure. Given the unique nature of this surgical innovation (also known as the “Switch” procedure), the odds are good but never 100% that the patient’s own pulmonary valve will be in good enough shape to perform in the aortic position. You can learn more about the Ross Procedure by clicking here.

Brad Mueller - Ross Procedure Patient Of John Oswalt
Brad Mueller – Aortic Valve Replacement

I remember my surgeon, Dr. Vaughn Starnes, telling me, “Now Adam… We won’t know for sure if the Ross Procedure will be feasible. First, we will need to look at the pulmonary valve to make sure it matches the size and potential functioning the aortic valve.”

That said, Dr. Oswalt most likely provided Brad Mueller with the same counsel / warning.

Take a guess what happened to Brad?

Here is a snippet from Brad’s recent email to me. He tells it best:

“Well… The day of surgery, Dr. Oswalt opens me up and not only was my aortic valve bicuspid, but the pulmonary valve was a bicuspid aortic valve as well!!! Doctor Oswalt had to shift directions mid-surgery and complete the procedure with a mechanical heart valve replacement. Who’d have thought???

“Dr. Oswalt told me that this condition was very, very, very rare. It’s only the second time he had seen a double bicuspid valve case in 20 years.

Dr. John Oswalt - Austin, Texas
Dr. John Oswalt

“So I have a new mechanical valve and it’s clicking away. All in all, I’m doing well in recovery. Thanks again for your book and the incision shield!”

I hope that helps explains the connection between Forrest Gump, Brad Mueller, John Oswalt and The Ross Procedure – “Sometimes valve surgery is like a box of chocolates!”

Keep on tickin!


Written by Adam Pick
- Patient & Website Founder

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 The Wall Street Journal.

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 The Wall Street Journal.

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