After Delayed Stroke, Jeff Gets Recovery Back On Track

By Adam Pick on March 31, 2009

As a follow-up to an earlier blog about stroke and heart surgery (see “Is Stroke A Risk During Heart Surgery?“), I just received this patient update from Jeff. You can tell that Jeff’s positive attitude is going to help him throughout his recovery. Here is what he writes:

Hi Adam,

My name is Jeff Stoveken and I am 46 years old.  I was diagnosed with a bicuspid aortic valve at age 40.  It was discovered during a routine physical when my doctor heard a murmur.  It was confirmed with an echocardiogram.


Jeff Stoveken – Heart Valve Surgery Patient


In August of 2008, during a visit to the emergency room for some chest pains, I was diagnosed with a five centimeter aortic aneurysm. One month later I had my valve replaced, along with a section of my aorta containing the aneurysm, by Dr. John Brown, III at Morristown Memorial Hospital in New Jersey.  I have a St. Jude’s Mechanical valve.

My entire recovery at the hospital and at home went very smoothly until my third week when I started to feel very tired and unmotivated. At the end of that week, I suffered a hemorraghic stroke, and spent a week in the ICU at Morristown Memorial.

The stroke affected my balance and vision.  Fortunately, within two weeks from the date of my stroke, I was almost fully recovered.  I never expected I would have had a stroke judging by my first three weeks of recovery.



Today I have minor balance and vision problems that may or may not resolve with time.  However, my new valve is working fine, and my stamina increases each week.

If I were to give one piece of advice, it would be do not worry about your upcoming surgery. Just remember that you have the easy part, your surgeon is the one that has the job to do and when you wake up the only thing you have to do is recover!

I read your heart valve surgery book as soon as I came home from the hospital and I recommend your book and blog to everyone that I have met since then. I have learned from your readers’ experiences too. We can all learn little things from each others experiences, no matter how different they are.

Jeff Stoveken

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 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 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.

Jane says on March 31st, 2009 at 1:57 pm

Hi Jeff,

Good to hear stories like yours. Were the chest pains the result of the aneurysm? My husband also has a 5 cm aneurysm and was told chest pains he had were not related to that, makes me a little worried.

Cindy says on March 31st, 2009 at 3:20 pm

Hi Jeff,
So glad you are on the mend! I am wondering if you can describe what visual symptoms you experienced with the stroke??? I have migraine & am used to the visual aura BUT the last few days I’ve been having a small dark area in my vision that is only there while walking fast or uphill. I was going to write Adam about this … but maybe you can be of some help. It is NOT interfering with reading or any daily activities. And it is a sort of transparent dark area when it does enter my vision. At rehab yesterday while on the treadmill it came on & they monitored my heart closely … there was nothing that showed up.
Today is my 8 week anniversary of valve repair. I celebrated by giving one of my horses a much needed tail bath … NEVER thought I’d be doing anything close to that so soon!! Now, if this annoying “spot” would just leave me alone…

Kevin says on March 31st, 2009 at 8:00 pm

Jeff, your surgery is almost identical to the one I had in Oct. 2008, and I also have a St. Jude Mechanical value. In addition, I had a stroke prior to my surgery that was caused by calcium build up on my aortic value. Thus it had to be replaced. Curious to know what caused your stroke ? Good luck to you,

jeff stoveken says on April 1st, 2009 at 4:57 am

hi everyone , thank you for all the encouragement. to answer jane : they never said what had caused the pain. they said it may have been pressure against other organs as the aorta grew larger, or it may have been something totally unrelated. but i can tell you that the very minute the E.R. doctor informed me that i had an aneurysm, the pain stopped immediately. that was unexplainable ,and to think that unknown pain actually saved my life because it may have burst before my next echo ! both my cardiologist and my surgeon agreed that the aneurysm should be taken care of as soon as possible.and i agreed, i couldnt imagine worrying about something like that for months. Cathy, i experienced total diziness and was unable to walk. now i am left with difficulties when my sight changes from near and far. i still also get dizzy easily, such as closing my eyes to wash my face, i feal very unsteady and its been 6 months since my stroke. the doctors said these symptoms may clear up, time will tell. Kevin, no doctor would commit to an exact cause for my stroke. i was actually flown by medivac to meet with a brain surgeon to stop the bleeding in my head. fortunately by the time i arrived at the trauma center, the bleeding had slowed down to where my condition was being monitored in icu. if i had gotten brain surgery, perhaps i would know what had caused it ,(very thankful i didnt), but the doctors only had cat scans to go by. i will say that i bumped my head a week before and thought nothing of it. the surgery itself can cause a stroke( a risk that i read where i signed for surgery)and the only other possibility was that my INR was over 4 when tested during my stroke in the E.R. so it could have been a combination of all of those or something all on its own. needless to say , my INR is monitored rather closely now and i do recommend that people take that seriously.

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