Anita, 58, Praises Dr. Gillinov & Shares Heart Valve Surgery Tips

By Adam Pick on June 3, 2009

The “preparation for heart valve surgery” seems to be a very popular, patient topic these days.

First, Sylvia sent me a special note about her extraordinary weight loss before aortic valve replacement. Then, a few days later, Anita sent me her ideas and tips about being mentally and physically fit for surgery. I thought you might like to read Anita’s note, so here it is:

Hi Adam,

My recent experience with mitral valve repair is something worth sharing.  The surgery was done just four weeks ago (March 30, 2009) at The Cleveland Clinic, by Doctor A. Marc Gillinov.

Everything went smoothly, and the staff, including Dr. Gillinov, were amazed at how quickly my body healed.  Dr. Gillinov stated that my initial recovery was two days ahead of most of his patients.  My nurse practitioner called me her “WOW” patient. In total, I spent just 10 hours in intensive care and was discharged after only 3 days.


Anita Devine - Mitral Valve Repair Patient at Cleveland Clinic


I was truly blessed to have surgery at The Cleveland Clinic.  Not only were the doctors and staff experts in their field, but also they were extremely compassionate, caring human beings. Their kindness and expertise greatly helped my recovery.

I wanted to share some of the steps that I took to enhance my recovery:


1) Preparing myself mentally for surgery

No matter how good the surgical team, having surgery is still a trauma.  I prepared myself by meditating, especially in a quiet place outdoors, to alleviate my fears.  In addition, for 2 months prior to surgery, I listened to guided visualizations twice a day.  I can say positively, that these practices greatly enhanced my recovery.


2) Preparing myself physically for surgery

To prepare physically, I examined my diet and lifestyle practices.  Of course , we know that exercise is important.  I walked 30 minutes a day, and most days I completed additional exercises that raise the energy of the body.  These are ancient oriental techniques, similar to a gentle martial art. They are called Qi Gong exercises.

Without a doubt, diet is a huge factor in recovery.  I eat a Vegan diet, and have studied health and healing through diet for many years.  At age 58, I had absolutely no coronary artery disease.  I think that I have regained much of my energy so quickly because of my diet. Today, just 3 weeks post discharge, I was out in my garden, planting all the seedlings of this season.  I am also walking about 1 hour each day.  I need less and less of a nap each day.  So, I know my body is mending.


Dr. A. Marc Gillinov – Anita’s Surgeon


I have faced some challenges in this process.  I am a really active person, love to dance, and it is hard to sit still, day after day.  I wish I could dance again today!  Putting all my activities aside, at least temporarily, has given me the opportunity to go inward, to explore the meaning of true healing.  This is a real gift, for in healing we discover our true self, and our dreams for life and for happiness.

Thanks for all you do Adam!

Anita Devine

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.

lislepammysue says on June 4th, 2009 at 1:25 pm

As one who will need a new aortic valve in the future I enjoyed reading about your prep. I exercise, weights and brisk walking, and am a vegan. i need to work on visualization. I am asymptomatic and just hate not having the ‘control’ of having the surgery. Being laid up is not my cup of tea. The ‘take it easy days’ after my angiogram drove me nuts. Hope I can fare half as well as you. You are my ideal. If I could have this as an out patient I would.

Jennifer Brantley says on June 4th, 2009 at 4:06 pm


Thanks for the story, My doctor has given me 2 months to prepare physically for my surgery by losing weight. I have a goal of 25 lbs and I have lost 11 in 3 weeks. Thanks for your story and God Bless! 🙂

Jennifer Brantley

Patrick Hightower says on June 4th, 2009 at 9:14 pm

Thank you for shareing your experience with Dr. Gillinov. My surgery for mitral valve will be with him in Cleveland. I feel fortunate to have been accepted by his group. Your diet insite is very important. One way I have relaxed about my surgery is by watching the live mitral valve robotic repair surgery that was done at Cleveland Clinic with Dr. Gillinov as the moderator. I found the video when I googled Cleveland Clinic mitral valve surgery. The project was publish for U.S. News. It is well worth watching!

Kerrigan says on June 5th, 2009 at 12:29 pm

You hit the nail on the head re the importance of preparing oneself mentally and physically for this experience.
Preperation, coupled with strong support by friends and family, turned this into a positive step forward for me and allowed me to get it behind me and get on with an active life.
You are good to go!

Anne North says on June 6th, 2009 at 1:04 pm

Thanks to everyone for the very informative tips. I’m trying to get prepared to be the caregiver following my fiancee’s June 17 aortic valve replacement. Does anyone know where I can purchase one of the heart pillows? The hospital for his surgery does not give these out, and I can see what a help they are. Of course I can use a regular pillow, but would love to find a heart-shaped one as in Anita’s photo and Adam’s book.

Thank you!

Barbara says on June 7th, 2009 at 10:00 am


Thanks so much for sharing… Like you, I’m going in for mitral valve repair soon. My doctors haven’t really stressed any of the points you noted. Again, thanks!


Meigs Matheson says on June 7th, 2009 at 11:24 pm

Anita, was yours a minimaly invasive surgery? And was it an “easy” repair – like the posterior leaf?
Just wanting to get info on possibilities on a repair of the more difficult anterior leaf- esp as regards minimally invasiver surgery.
Thanks, Meigs

Louise says on June 8th, 2009 at 12:32 am

Hi Anita,

Thanks so much for sharing your experiences.

My husband is due to have mitral valve repair in a few weeks. It has been a bit of a rush decision (we knew it would have to be done in the next 6 months but then were offered a date in just 1 months time which we have accepted). Consequently I’m not sure how prepared we are for what is about to happen (and on top of this we have to leave our home in Asia to return to the UK for the surgery which is a stressful experience in itself).

I was interested in the guided visualizations you used prior to surgery. Can you or any other readers recommend any so I can get them for my husband to try?

Thanks so much everyone. I appreciate the support here.


Anita Devine says on June 8th, 2009 at 3:00 pm

Hi, Anita here. I wanted to address specific questions that were asked by Meigs and Louise.
Meigs, the mitral repair was minimally invasive, but it was the anterior leaflet, so it was more difficult.
Louise: I purchased a book and CD set titled Preparing for Surgery by Peggy Huddleston. I also found a very good guided meditation on I Tunes by Amber Chandra OM. Both were extremely helpful.
Thanks to everyone for your comments.

Richard Brint says on June 25th, 2009 at 4:36 pm

Congrats on your quick recovery…mine wasn’t quite as fast.
Dr. Gillinov re-repaired my mitral valve 11/08 (he didn’t do the first op)…this may have been the reason for my longer recovery…anyway as I conclude this comment I’m off for a 6 mile walk.
Thanks Dr. G

Erika Bursavich says on July 29th, 2009 at 2:24 pm

Congrats Anita! Happy to hear that Dr. Gillinov did yet another amazing job. My husband had the robotically assisted mitral valve surgery (repair) last September performed by Dr. G. Although he didn’t recover quite as quickly as you he is also doing very well and runs daily on the treadmill.

I am glad to hear you mention the power of meditation in regards to healing. My husband received a guided relaxation CD two days before having the surgery (made by the Cleveland Clinic) & starting using it immediately & even listened to it while being wheeled into the operating room. When he awoke from the surgery the first thing he asked for was his CD (he actually asked for “his relaxation lady,” since he was half awake/ highly drugged) while recovering in the ICU. He continued to listened to this CD after returning home, which made me giggle since he is not the type to normally meditate. Needless to say it helped him immensely. I highly recommend it to anyone having a major surgery, or minor surgery for that matter.

Thanks for sharing Anita! Good luck on your continuing recovery 🙂

Ken says on June 26th, 2010 at 3:19 pm

Thanks Anita,

I’m scheduled for mitral valve repair in Aug. I’m extremely nervous and your story has helped me. Would like to know more about your procedure as I’m supposed to travel to Europe 4 weeks after my surgery and I’m concern that this may be too soon.

Thanks Adam for the Book and Blog it has really been helpful!

Ruth Howell says on November 27th, 2010 at 3:57 pm

Dear Anita,
Sorry to be a pest. I just re-read the comments and noticed you had an anterior leaflet repair – and done with a minimally invasive technique. Sorry I missed this when I posted my first comment to you. I too have a problem with my anterior leaflet and I have not been able to find anyone else who has had the same problem and repair. Please, please, please get in touch with me if you can. I really could use some information and support from someone who went through the same thing. Thank you so much. Ruth Howell

grayson lopisy says on January 11th, 2016 at 5:39 am

Oh its all be great and a wonderful success story Anita i pray the lord be with you and gives you strength where you from i will like to know more about you

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