Heart Surgery Patients Unite By A Mexican Pool!

By Adam Pick on April 5, 2018

An unexpected gift just occurred in my life.

While on Spring Break with my family in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, I had the extraordinary pleasure of meeting…  Not one…  Not two… But, three heart valve patients.  Here’s what happened:

First, I met Mike from New Jersey.  Mike is a heart valve replacement patient who suffered from aortic stenosis.  Like so many patients in our community, Mike was mis-diagnosed several times.  It wasn’t until he was severely symptomatic and the valve was almost completely closed that Mike got help.



Mike said to me, “I was in bad shape.  I was coughing all the time and tired.  I had this very rare infection in which a vegetation was growing on the valve.  The vegetation caused my valve to close up.  No one could figure it out — and, I have two cardiologists as neighbors.  That growth could have caused a massive heart attack.  Or, it could have brook loose and caused a stroke.”

As you can see in the picture below, Mike had a bicuspid aortic valve that had a severe infection which caused a vegetation to grow and narrow the valve. Yikes!





The good news is that Mike is doing great now.  Nearly two years after his procedure, Mike is running his construction company and feeling healthy.  “I feel incredible,” Mike said.  Mike had his procedure performed by Dr. Nixon at St. Mary’s Hospital in Pennsylvania.


Russell, a Mitral Valve Patient, from California

After meeting Mike, I bumped into Russell… In the pool.  No joke!

Like Mike, Russell was… mis-diagnosed.  “When I was in the Marines, they told me I had a murmur.  But, that’s it,” Russell shared with me. “It wasn’t until I had severe chest pain one day that I knew something was wrong.  After several tests, including a TEE, my doctors finally figured it out.  That was a scary time for me and my family.  Honestly, I almost didn’t go through with the operation I was so scared.  But, I knew it was the right thing to do to avoid a dilated left ventricle and, ultimately, heart failure.”



Russell had an open-heart, mitral valve repair eight months ago for mitral regurgitation due to ruptured chordae at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. The procedure was performed by Dr. Faradad Esmailian.


Isidro, a Double Valve Patient, from Mexico

Then, there was my chance encounter with Isidro.

Unlike Mike and Russell, Isidro works at the hotel that we were staying at.  And, unlike Mike and Russell, Isidro had not one… But, two valve replacements.  That’s right.  Isidro had aortic valve issues since he was a child.  Isidro had one procedure in the United States when he was a small boy and the other in Mexico.  Isidro has a mechanical valve.



Thanks To Mike, Russell and Isidro!

I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed meeting Mike, Russell and Isidro during my vacation.  It was as if we were old friends – sharing our stories, relating to one another, and learning about our unique journeys to healthy hearts.

Keep on tickin!


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.

Diane Clark Sobelman says on April 6th, 2018 at 7:50 pm

I had aortic valve replacement in November 1991 at Cedars
Sinai in Los Angeles., a few days after when in Step down unit, my husband called nurses and doctors about “ something is wrong with my wife,” she acts like she had a stroke or something!” No one really listened, just thought he was over reacting, too over protective… once he got my cardiologists attention, she came to see me, my husband was paged to step down unit STAT! ( husband worked in Cath lab at Cedars,) he got there and all my tubes were being re inserted, I was emergently incubated, both lungs had chest tubes in them to drain all the fluid from them! Seems I was drowning in fluid overload, ( due to my in put and out put not observed as well as should have!) he asked my doctor if I was going to make it, and she had to tell him she did not know, he went home to tell my mother who was staying with us for my surgery and recovery. He finally got the call
After midnight, I had woken up and he was out the door and on his way,
I finally got out of hospital about 6 days later, had a good recovery! Eight years later had the same symptoms as when I needed valve replacement. EP specialist saw me as a emergency, and admitted me to hospital after I could not pass treadmill test, husband had to hold me up, I had Ep examination under anesthesia, come to find out had to have a pacemaker/defibrillator placed in my chest! I Survived that too!
In October of last year, I was having major shortness of breath, had echo, which showed my aortic valve almost closed. We had picked the titanium valve because in 1991 because it was to outlast me!,
Nope, scar tissue covered it, I then had second open heart surgery And a cow valve was placed, ironically enough, on the second day after surgery, had a chest tune placed in my right lung and excess fluid drained! My husband would of had deja vue if he was still alive to witness this! I’m not happy he is gone however I’m glad he didn’t have to go through this again!
I’m feeling really good!!, however I will always have !
Could not have that fixed with ablation because of too much scar tissue and it was too dangerous to fix this.
I will now always have shortness of breath, because my lungs are in bad shape! but I’m happy how my heart is performing! Thank God for all Heart Surgeons!

At 66 years, I’m glad I’m feeling well, thanks to all the nurses and doctors at St Francis Heart Hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma! Cardiologist Dr. Sanjeev, Surgeon, Dr Schmidt and all the nurses and PAs and nurses aides who took care of me on the 5 th floor ICU unit.

Carla Asta says on April 7th, 2018 at 11:37 am

Wow this is pretty incredible Adam. It’s so true, one does run into valve patients literally everywhere one turns, if one is attuned to it. It’s pretty incredible how unique everyone’s journey is, yet how there are definitely some common themes & challenges around lack of awareness and misdiagnosis. Thanks for sharing and for all you do for patients. Hope you had a nice holiday! Gracias por compartir su experiencia con esa comunidad.

Christine Pittelli says on April 8th, 2018 at 12:22 am

I enjoyed reading this! Thank you for all that you do!

Linda Showalter Butler says on April 8th, 2018 at 5:59 pm

Wow, those stories were amazing! Thank you Adam for all you do!

vikram says on September 30th, 2018 at 1:28 am

I am in my early 60’s and was leading a very healthy life. My weight was the same as in my 20’s, ate carefully and had an extensive excercise regimen with a mix of resistance exercises, sprinting & yoga.

During a regular checkup my cardiologist discovered a murmur in my heart even though my cholesterol level was 146 and the ECG showed no abnormality. A follow up Echo test & angiography showed heavy calcification in both my aortic valve and arteries. A big SHOCK for someone who was leading a healthy life and had no symptoms.

One has had an Aortic valve replacement along with a quadruple bypass on 1st August this year i.e 2 months back. My heart EFA after 45 days of surgery is 65% and all vital parameters are all within range. One is now taking brisk walks dailyaveraging 4/5 kms.

I am keen to know from fellow ‘sufferers’ if;
1) one can ever return fully to the active excerise regimen of the immediate past?
2) when can one start with resistance exercises to restart building one’s muscles?
3) Can one ever get back to sprinting or other HIIT excercises ?

Look forward

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