8-Year Old, Grant, Gets Successful Ross Procedure Thanks to Dr. Starnes!

Written By: Adam Pick, Patient Advocate, Author & Website Founder
Published: August 30, 2021

Since starting HeartValveSurgery.com in 2006, I’ve been fortunate to speak with thousands of patients about heart valve disease. 

As you might imagine, I have also had the privilege of speaking with thousands of care partners including wives, husbands, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandsons and granddaughters.


Joe & Grant Foster - Ross Procedure PatientGrant (Aortic Valve Patient) & Joe Foster


So you know…

When I speak with a parent of a young child with severe heart valve disease, my sensitivity to the situation skyrockets. As a father, I know how confusing and scary the diagnosis of a life-threatening disease for your child can be.  (Fyi, my son was born with a serious blood platelet deficiency that kept him in the neonatal intensive care unit for the first 10 days of his life.)

Joe & I Discuss Grant’s Diseased Aortic Valve

For that reason, I perked up in my chair when I recently received an email from Joe Foster, the parent of Grant, an active 8-year old boy diagnosed with severe aortic valve regurgitation resulting from a bicuspid aortic valve.  In his email, Joe wrote to me:

“Hi Adam, my wife and I are having a really hard time deciding on the right direction for my eight year old son, Grant.  He was diagnosed earlier this year with a bicuspid aortic valve with regurgitation and moderate to severe enlargement. We have been advised that surgery is necessary to improve his heart function.

I have watched all of your webinars and they have been very informative and helpful, thank you.  Currently, we are in the process of finding the right surgeon for him in San Diego, California. I think the ideal situation would be a durable repair but we also must make a decision on replacement if repair is not successful. We think that the Ross procedure might be his best option but are having trouble finding a surgeon that specializes specifically in this procedure and on a child his age.  

Any advice or recommendations would be greatly appreciated to help us through this process.  Thank you!”

After reading Joe’s email, I immediately picked up the phone and called him. 

On our call, Joe explained all the details of Grant’s diagnosis.  He also shared, like so many parents, his love for his child and his confusion.

Dr. Vaughn Starnes Gets Involved

As I learned more about Grant’s situation, I encouraged Joe to find an absolute guru specific to pediatric aortic valve therapy.  As we have discussed here at HeartValveSurgery.com, there are several unique considerations for children with heart valve disease. I wanted Joe to know all the pros and all the cons of each type of procedure available to Grant – aortic valve repair, aortic valve replacement, the Ross Procedure, etc.


Dr. Vaughn StarnesDr. Vaughn Starnes


The more we spoke… The more Joe asked several insightful questions about the Ross Procedure, an advanced and complex type of aortic valve procedure that replaces the patient’s diseased aortic valve with the patient’s pulmonary valve. (The Ross Procedure can have several advantages for select patients that you can learn about at this link.)

Coincidentally, I had a Ross Procedure in 2005.

“It’s been almost 16 years since my Ross Procedure,” I shared with Joe. “I’m doing great. No blood thinners. No re-operations. I exercise 6 days a week. I feel blessed.”


The Ross ProcedureThe Ross Procedure


“Who was your surgeon?” asked Joe.

“My surgeon was Dr. Vaughn Starnes,” I said. “The really good news is that Dr. Starnes is a world-renowned Ross Procedure surgeon and he specializes in pediatric aortic valve surgery. Plus, he’s in Los Angeles which is just two hours from San Diego.”

Dr. Starnes is chair of the Department of Surgery, Surgeon-in-Chief at USC Norris Cancer and Keck Hospital of USC, and the H. Russell Smith Foundation Chair for Cardiovascular Thoracic Research at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. He is also founding executive director of USC’s Cardiac and Vascular Institute and chief of cardiothoracic surgery at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Dr. Starnes is also the past-president of the American Association for Thoracic Surgery.

To make a long story very short, I reached out to Dr. Starnes on Joe’s behalf.  Within a few hours, the team at USC and Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles had scheduled a consult with Joe and Dr. Starnes.  Amazing!!!!

Grant’s Ross Procedure

I am happy to share that Dr. Starnes performed a successful Ross Procedure on Grant.



Pediatric Ross Procedure Patient


Shortly after leaving the hospital, Joe texted me:

Hey Adam, It’s Joe… Grant’s dad.  I wanted to update you on Grant’s progress. First of all, thank you for your support through this very difficult time. Dr. Starnes ended up doing the Ross Procedure after discovering that his aortic valve was unrepairable.

Grant did amazing!! He was able to come home just three nights after his surgery. No complications. His mom and I are very happy with the decision we made to go with the Ross Procedure. 

Doctor Starnes believes the operation will last him a very long time. You were a big part in helping us make that very difficult decision for such a young boy. 

We really appreciate you. If there is any way we can help your organization please let us know.

There is no doubt that Joe’s text and Grant’s pictures brought a huge smile to my face and several joyful tears to my eyelids.  Again, as a parent, I can relate to how relieved Joe must have felt knowing his son was home recovering.

Can Grant’s Story Get Even Better?

As many of you know, I like to stay in touch with the patients and the care partners I meet in our community. 

So… To check-in on Grant, I sent Joe a text earlier today.


Ross Procedure Success Story


Another big smile came upon my face as I read this note from Joe just four weeks after Grant’s surgery:

Hi Adam. Grant is doing great. He has been in school the last two weeks.

His recovery has been amazing.

No complications.

His incision is almost completely healed. He is itching to get back to normal activities.


Congrats Foster Family! Thanks Dr. Starnes!

Needless to say, I am so happy for Grant, Joe and the entire Foster family.  Thanks to Joe for letting me be small part of Grant’s journey to a healthy heart.

To Dr. Starnes, there are no words for the amazing work that you do.  On behalf of the Foster family and me… Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Related Links:

Keep on tickin’ Grant!

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.

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