After 7 Heart Surgeries, Liver Failure & Kidney Failure, Irvin Is Beyond Thankful For Dr. Shemin

By Adam Pick on May 14, 2014

If you didn’t know, I moderate all of the patient recommendations we receive at our Surgeon Finder. Earlier today, I saw a testimonial from Irvin that made me think, “That’s incredible! I gotta share this with our community!”

So, without further ado, here is what Irvin posted: Luckily, Dr. Richard Shemin took on my case which was a #9 in difficulty (10 being the most difficult!). He performed my 5th open-heart surgery while I was in kidney and liver failure from my heart valves being in shambles and not getting blood to my organs. I had 7 previous heart surgeries. Four were aortic valve replacements and 3 where pacemaker surgeries all from the time I was age 21 due to a congenital defect in my aortic valve.


Dr. Richard Shemin & Heart Valve PatientDr. Richard Shemin with Irvin Solt


After one of my last surgeries in 2003, I finally went through a 10 year period of fairly good health. I was even able to lift weights, and worked up to bench pressing up to 250 lbs. Then, in February of 2013, at the age of 59, I wasn’t feeling well. But, I didn’t know why. I eventually saw a kidney specialist who told me that I was in 4th stage kidney failure. My wife and I were shocked!

A few months later — in May of 2013 — I was back in the hospital where I was diagnosed with liver failure in addition to kidney failure. I felt like the ‘walking dead’. I was fortunately sent by my hospital doctor to Dr. Shemin at UCLA Medical Center for a further evaluation for heart surgery. He evaluated my ECHO and then ordered further diagnostic tests which verified my need for valve replacement.

When he performed my 5th open-heart surgery on August 1, 2013, he did not expect to do as much as he did! I ended up needing a bypass, a new pacemaker, the tightening of my tricuspid heart valve required a ring, and a complete replacement of my mitral valve with a new mechanical valve. He also put in a new aortic mechanical valve replacing the old valve that — to his amazement — was only being held on by 3 remaining stitches out of 20! Had one more stitch come loose, I would have died instantly. I knew I was sent to him for this surgery just in time!

Since the surgery on August 1st, my kidney function has gone from 15% to 60% and my liver function has returned to normal! I am back to work at my job full time and working out at the gym again. Now that the ‘pump’ is working again and getting blood to my organs, I feel like a brand new man!

I am greatly indebted to Dr. Richard Shemin and his wonderful staff and to God who was overseeing this surgery as well as the other 8 before it! Dr. Shemin is not only a great heart surgeon, but also a kind and caring doctor who treats you like his own family!

Irvin Solt
Heart Valve Surgery Patient

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.

Tommy says on May 15th, 2014 at 4:04 am

Wow…im never complaining again!!! Amazing man and story!

Don Hull says on May 15th, 2014 at 10:46 am

What an amazing story! To me, not only is the surgeon obviously skilled and caring, but the patient is a testimony of determination and courage. I’ve been through two heart surgeries myself and am amazed at this account. I only say Congratulations! Go celebrate LIFE!!!

staceybrown281 says on May 15th, 2014 at 11:32 am

Wow! I was moved by your story. This courage, faith and determination that you have serve as your fighting mechanism to surpass that operation. I read many heart surgeries and it seemed you have one of the best story to tell. I am searching the internet just to find the spirit that will uplift my heart because this coming month, my mother will be going to have a knee surgery in Mexico as prescribed by our private doctor.

Bob Sluys says on May 15th, 2014 at 11:46 am

Bless you, Irvin—amazing that you\’ve experienced that many . . . I recently had my fourth open heart and was told by the surgeon that I only had an 80% chance of surviving due to all the complications . . . again, I wish you the very best! Tommy! It\’s ok to complain! Pain is personal! We don\’t suffer on a curve! Please remember that-we applaud Irvin but should also respect and honor our own experiences as well! Best to everybody . .

Patrick Dunham says on May 18th, 2014 at 2:15 pm

My valve is not in very well due to calcification. Is that in anyway related to all your procedures?

Karl says on May 19th, 2014 at 5:44 pm

That’s an amazing and inspiring story! Thanks for sharing.

I had my aortic valve replaced 5 years ago at age 39. I have to admit this is somewhat scary reading as well. I hope to not have to go through another surgery, and I was under the impression mechanical valves are expected to last a lifetime. I would be curious if anyone knows what has gone wrong in this case, and so many times? Should not the valve cuff grow together with the surrounding tissue, and stitches dissolve under normal circumstances?

Eloise says on May 19th, 2014 at 6:46 pm

Incredible and inspiring story . Had avr in December and had difficulties post op . Just now starting to feel better. Am so pleased and happy for your success . You have given me much hope for the future . God bless you .

Donna Ryan says on May 19th, 2014 at 11:32 pm

Amazing…… but like many that have posted I’d like to know what started the surgeries as I was born with a tricuspid aortic valve. When did you have the first one and did it last the time it should of and then problems arose or was there problem after problem. And why didn’t the valve grow into the surrounding tissue. Now I’m worried as my aortic valve and aorta was replaced…..Don’t want to think I can start coming undone. I survived an aortic aneurysm don’t want to fall apart and bleed out anyway. Wow, I can’t believe how many surgeries on the heart the body can survive. Keep up living your life to the fullest! God Bless!

MJ Samer says on May 20th, 2014 at 8:59 am

Very impressive for both surgeon and patient! I’ve had 3 open heart surgeries, one valve replaced twice, a pacemaker, and 3 ablations, but this guy has me beat 😉 I’m older and no doubt in for more repairs before my life is over, but still found this story inspiring. Thanks for posting it!

Al Krauth says on May 21st, 2014 at 3:20 pm

Dear Adam, I am the proud owner of your Book, the patients guide to Heart Valve Surgery, read it while on annual winter vacation in Naples Florida, as weather in Montreal is horrible and cold during winter months.
Last year I was diagnosed with aortic valve stenosis which has advanced to severe, although I feel fine, no problem with blood pressure shortness of breath etc., I am 80 years old and 9 days ago Coronary Arteriography at a local Heart Hospital, that confirmed my echocardiogram results. I had a 20-30 min. meeting with a heart surgeon of the same hospital who advised that I shd, have surgery soon i.e perhaps in June or end of August when he is avail.I collected considerable iinfo. from yr. book and online mostly from US based hospitals and heart surgeons.
I asked the above surgeon abt. procedures other that full sternum opening and his answer was, this is what he prefers or does normally, he was not interested in discussing minimum invasive or TARV procedure etc.Furthermore he is a French speaking Dr in a French Hospital although he speak English fairly well he suggested I
may be better off if I would learn some French during the summer prior to the operation.
My day in the hospital for the Arteriography procedure gave me a taste of the nursing staff most of which were either unable or unwilling to communicate with me in English.
One should be aware of the facts that in the Province of Quebec medical staff in English designated Hospitals and Institutions must , repeat must be able to communicate also in the French language or their liscense may not be valid, contrary to French institutions where the primary language is French and only a small % of staff is able or willing to speak-write English.
So now you see the picture and how those not being able to communicate in French are
being treated. I think that is not helpful when you are in need of a serious operation.
My first Cardiologist was also French Canadian and his secretary gave me to understand that if I will get a second opinion The Dr. will not want to see me again.
I think that a Dr. should better ethics and not be allowed to use such tactics towards patients, I know of an acquaintance that was given the same answer by the above secretary this man has the same Cardiologist and underwent triple bypass surgery about 2-3 years ago yet still sees the same Cardiologist.
I will make every effort to find a good and English speaking Cardiologist and also a more accommodating Surgeon to make. me more comfortable for my upcoming surgery
Unfortunately I cannot have the procedure done in a different Province in Canada due to our Medicare system which I believe will cover the costs, therefore considering going to a US based Heart Centre is also out of a question due to the huge costs involved and are not affordable for the average Canadian Citizen .

So there you have my situation which I felt I have to exhaust from my .
Looking forward to further e-mails from you and other post operative patients,
sincerely Al

matt morris says on May 24th, 2014 at 10:31 pm

STICHES FELL OUT!! I am shocked. I went to 5 different NYC surgeons for opinions. One said he can do it minimally invasive -The rest stated than many mini’s must be REDONE by full chest opening to do it right- two states they will do the Maze for Atrial fib.( which i have) to get me off of coumadin – another states this is a SALES technique A-fib will come back!! I am SO confused!! The Heart A SALES TECHNIQUE!! One Dr. states that Heart Surgery is one on the Money makers for a hospital. BTW. I am now having shortness of breath and my ankles are Swelling. I have a 6th opinion Wed. 5/28 I HOPE HE IS THE ONE.. I have learned so much in the past 6 months…It seem a ex-heart surgery patient becomes a ATM machine to the hospital and Dr. Very sad to say this– was hoping there was one thing where Money was not an issue in health care. Please is there someone out there that had a Valve Replaced with NO problems for 10 yrs.. I must know before I pick one and fall into this web!!! Thanks!

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