Dr. Raney Shifts Gears During Brian’s Aortic Valve Surgery

By Adam Pick on June 30, 2008

Robyn (my wife) will tell that I don’t really like to use cliches.

But, if there is one thing I have learned since my heart valve replacement surgery, it is that “there are no guarantees in life”.

Yes. I did just use a cliche. But, it is sooooooo appropriate to heart valve surgery. As you may already know, there are risks, there are uncertainties and there are surgical complications that are undeniably associated with cardiac surgery.

As we have already seen (in patient stories from Leslie Lafayette or Brad Mueller), “there are no guarantees in heart surgery”.


Brian - Patient Heart Valve Surgery
Brian – Aortic Valve Repair Patient In Hospital


Recently, I received an interesting email from Brian, which emulates the twists-and-turns of heart surgery. I thought you might like to hear Brian’s story. So, with his approval, I have posted his thoughts below.

Hi Adam,

I found your website five weeks after my heart surgery. And, I recently read your book to help me through the recovery. We have a bit in common it seems:

My name is Brian and I in Orange County, California (not far from you in Los Angeles). I am 43 years old and even though I felt great, I decided to have a full physical on April 22, 2008.

Everything checked out fine… except for one thing.

An angiogram revealed a very rare congenital defect that was life threatening! I was diagnosed with an “anomolous origin of a left coronary artery” that had a 90 degree takeoff from my right coronary artery and then coursed dangerously between my aorta and pulmonary artery.

I was lucky though. I had no narrowing of the arteries or blockages. I consulted with two surgeons – Dr. Aidan Raney (Hoag Hospital) and with your surgeon, Dr. Vaughn Starnes (USC). They both agreed that I had outlived my luck!


Dr. Aidan Raney Hoag Hospital
Dr. Aidan Raney – Heart Surgeon (Hoag Hospital)


Dr. Starnes’ schedule was quite busy. Since Dr. Raney is well respected in Orange County, so I opted to stay closer to home with friends and family.

Two hours into the operation, Doctor Raney discovered that my aortic valve had separated tissue near the wall of the aorta. According to Dr. Raney, he nearly opted for a heart valve replacement but concluded that reinforcing stitches would be sufficient to remedy the situation.

Furthermore, it was discovered that my coronary artery could not be removed (due to its proximity to the valve). so Dr. Raney opted for a very small 1/4″ bypass as a “Plan B”.

I have to say that my open heart surgery scar and ICU pictures looked identical to yours. That made me feel better. Thanks.

It’s interesting, the surgery seemed a breeze compared to the downer of recovery. During the last five weeks, I’ve had scary heart palpitations and a sudden ventricular tachycardia that landed me a visit in the ER for a night. I have also experienced cardiac depression worrying about how long my valve repair and small vein graft bypasses will last given my young age. I am thinking you went through the same thoughts. I have also been wondering if I will ever surf or scuba dive again without the fear of heart palps or weird sensations.

In my opinion, the recovery from heart surgery is way worse than the surgery.

Like you, I dumped my pain killers. I suspected the drugs were adding to my heart palpitations early on. Staying away from the medicine was tough as the chest pain kept me awake ALL NIGHT! Now I just need to deal with the whole mental aspect of worrying about a surgical repair and stop reading so many internet stats about how long valves and vein grafts last!

Thanks again for your help, your inspiration and your book about heart valve surgery!


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.

David Bordere says on July 1st, 2008 at 2:01 pm

Hi There

I was just imformed that I am in need of Surgery to replace my Aortic Valve. I was reading Brian’s letter to you. I too live in Orange County. Is there anyway you can give Brian my number as it would be very helpfull to me if I can chat with someone who just had the same surgery, I also plan to buy your book today.

949- 300-8747

Thank you

David Bordere

Christine says on July 1st, 2008 at 8:38 pm

For Brian
I too experienced complications following aortic valve surgury..atrial flutter which landed me in the hospital after 3 er visits. It is scarey stuff. I am 6 months past that now and want you to know that you will get here too. I think it takes longer to heal than the surgeons tell us..at least this has been my experience. It is a very invasive surgury which effects us on all levels. I too experienced various degrees of depression usually dependent on how I felt. I believe that feeling fear and doubt and frustration are so normal along with depression. Keep asking for support..it helps. One day at a time. The best of health to you. Christine

Bobbie Ayala says on August 6th, 2008 at 7:56 pm

I was wondering if any of your readers has a recommendation for a doctor at Kaiser in Southern California. I live in Rialto and have been diagnosed with an aorta regurgitation problem and have been told that I will need valve replacement surgery. Any responses wold be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Bobbie

holley says on October 22nd, 2008 at 6:17 am

Hey Guys!
I had aortic valve repair (not replacement) 4 years ago up at UCLA. I had chosen Dr. Laks because he was known for being inventive. He gave me the option of repairing the valve..which could have lasted me my whole life..but with my luck it lasted me up until now. I am going to have to have surgery this December and am investigating the Ross Procedure. I met with a surgeon today that said he would rather not replace my valve with a pig valve, that he thinks the Ross Procedure would benefit me a great deal, seeing as how i’m just turning 21 this December (2008) and haven’t had kids yet. Does anybody know of anybody that has had the Ross Procedure? I was referred to a surgeon up in Orange County that is known for doing it…and was wondering if anybody has any other recommendations? I was also wondering if there were any support groups or anything like that that I could possibly look into. I was depressed after my last surgery..and having it again so soon kinda has me all freaked out. Thank you!

adedeji says on January 14th, 2009 at 7:40 am

please can you update me with the biography of great surgeons in the world

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