Adam's Heart Valve Surgery Blog – Page 31

Special Patient Update: Little AJ’s Wish Comes True

By Adam Pick on December 18, 2013

In 41 years of life, I had never experienced a wish-granting ceremony by Make-A-Wish.

That recently changed, however, thanks to a phone call I received from Edwards Lifesciences, a leading heart valve manufacturer. During that call, I learned that little Abraham Jordan Iqueda (AJ), a courageous five-year old boy — diagnosed with aortic and mitral valve disease, plus CHARGE syndrome — was about to receive a special wish at his home in Lake Elsinore, California.

To share AJ’s story with you, I created the video below.



Needless to say, I would like to thank the Iqueda family — AJ, Vicky & George – for opening their home and their hearts to me. It was an honor and privilege to be a part of this wish granting experience.

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“What Percent of Heart Valve Operations Use Minimally Invasive Approaches?” asks Elliot

By Adam Pick on December 17, 2013

I received a very interesting question from Elliot about minimally invasive procedures for heart valve operations.




In his email, Elliot writes to me, “Hi Adam – At 53, I’ve been diagnosed with moderate to severe aortic stenosis. In doing my homework about cardiac surgery, I’m reading more and more about minimally invasive techniques for valve surgery. At the same time, I know that the full chest incisions are still being done by many surgeons. My questions to you are, “What percent of heart valve operations are performed using mini approaches? Is it easier to do a mini for one valve versus another? Are the surgical results as good using minis or are full sternotomies a better option for preventing re-operations?”


Minimally Invasive Aortic Valve Replacement Procedures


As Elliot asks several great questions in his email, I want to get him several great answers. For that reason, I contacted Dr. John Grehan, a heart valve surgeon from St. Paul, Minnesota, that uses minimally invasive techniques in his practice. Here is Dr. Grehan’s response to Elliot:

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When You Can’t Be There: Tips for Providing Long Distance Care & Support

By Adam Pick on December 17, 2013

After an initial hospital stay, the recovery from heart valve surgery varies. If you have a close friend or relative who’s undergoing surgery, you want to be there to support him or her. But, in some cases, distance makes being by a person’s hospital bed impossible. While you might not be able to be right there for someone, you can still take care of him. The National Institute on Aging estimates there are about 7 million long distance caregivers in the country — you’re not alone.



Take Care of the Day-to-Day Concerns

You can’t walk your friend’s dogs yourself or make her meals after her surgery. But, you can arrange for meal delivery or hire a dog walker in the area. Look for a meal delivery service that can cater its meals to your loved one’s needs.

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Ask the Expert: The Impact of Cancer & Radiation Therapy on Heart Valve Function with Dr. Luis Castro

By Adam Pick on December 12, 2013

Since launching this website, I have met many patients who experience valvular disorders after radiation therapy for cancer. I was curious to learn more about the connection between cancer, radiation treatment and heart valve disease, so I contacted Dr. Luis Castro, a leading heart valve surgeon from Sequoia Hospital Heart & Vascular Institute in Redwood City, California.


Radiation Therapy & Heart Disease


Here are the highlights from our exchange:

Adam: Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me today about heart valve disease related to cancer treatment – specifically radiation therapy. Do you see many patients with this issue?

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Free eBook & Video: “Advances in Mitral & Tricuspid Valve Surgery; Plus, Atrial Fibrillation”

By Adam Pick on December 12, 2013

Great news!  Our recent webinar, “Advances in Mitral & Tricuspid Valve Surgery; Plus, Atrial Fibrillation”, was fantastic!  Over 235 patients and caregivers registered to learn critical insights about mitral valve disorders, tricuspid valve defects and atrial fibrillation from Dr. Robert Bonow, past president of the American Heart Association, and Dr. Patrick McCarthy, chief of cardiac surgery at Northwestern Medicine.


Free eBook: Advances in Mitral & Tricuspid Valve Surgery; Plus, Atrial Fibrillation


If you were unable to attend the webinar, I have created two ways that you can access the information shared during this hour-long event with Drs. Bonow and McCarthy. You can:


Download the free eBook. Watch the webinar video.


On behalf of our community, I want to thank Drs. Bonow and McCarthy for participating in this special event about mitral valve disease, tricuspid valve disease and atrial fibrillation. I also want to thank Eileen McDonald, Barabara Garren, Courtney Barker and Linda Huerta at Northwestern for coordinating and supporting this webinar.

Lastly, I want to thank all the patients who attended this very interactive webinar. The “Questions & Answers” section of the webinar was fantastic!!!

Keep on tickin!

Video Update: After Complex Heart Valve & Atrial Fibrillation Surgery, Clarissa Is Doing Great!

By Adam Pick on December 4, 2013

I recently met Clarissa Alaimo, a 53-year old patient from Lake Forest, Illinois.

Like many patients, Clarissa suffered from shortness of breath and fatigue due to several cardiac issues including mitral stenosis, tricuspid regurgitation and atrial fibrillation. So you know, Clarissa experienced rheumatic fever years ago.

To help you learn more about Clarissa and her complex surgery, I created this patient success story video. For the hearing impaired members of our community, I have provided a written transcript below.



Many thanks to Clarissa for taking the time to be interviewed for this video. I also want to thank Dr. McCarthy, Dr. Vassallo and the Northwestern team for taking such great care of Clarissa.

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Join Over 200 Patients & Caregivers For Wednesday’s Webinar!

By Adam Pick on December 3, 2013

Great news everybody!

I just learned that over 200 patients and caregivers have registered for our webinar, “Advances in Mitral & Tricuspid Valve Surgery; Plus, Atrial Fibrillation” with Dr. Robert Bonow, past president of the American Heart Association, and Dr. Patrick McCarthy, chief of cardiac surgery at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. The webinar will be held this Wednesday — from 4:30 to 5:30pm CST.

Given the response to this event, we just extended the webinar registration. So, if you would like to participate in this special community event, simply click here. There is no fee to join the webinar and all you need is a computer to attend the event.


Webinar with Drs. Bonow & McCarthy About Valve Disease and Atrial Fibrillation


FYI… Here are answers to a few questions I’ve received about the webinar:


Question 1 – Can I Still Register For The Webinar?

Yes, you can still register for the event. To sign-up for the webinar, click here.


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Special Announcement: Dr. Bonow & Dr. McCarthy to Host Live Webinar for Patients on December 4

By Adam Pick on November 25, 2013

I am very excited to announce that Dr. Robert Bonow, past president of the American Heart Association, and Dr. Patrick McCarthy, chief of cardiac surgery at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, will be hosting a special one-hour webinar on Wednesday, December 4, at 4:30pm CST.

The webinar, “Advances in Mitral & Tricuspid Valve Surgery: Plus, Atrial Fibrillation”, will provide special insights into valvular disease and treatment. Drs. Bonow and McCarthy will also address a common condition among patients at our website… atrial fibrillation.

More good news… The webinar is free for everybody. To register now, click here.


Webinar with Drs. Bonow & McCarthy About Valve Disease and Atrial Fibrillation


I forgot to mention… During the webinar, you will have an opportunity to ask Drs. Bonow and McCarthy questions in real-time. That said, this is an excellent opportunity to get your questions answered about heart valve disease and atrial fibrillation.

So you know, Dr. Robert Bonow, is a world-renown cardiologist who specializes in medical treatment for valve disease and a past chair of the American College of Cardiology / American Heart Association Task Force of Practice Guidelines of Patients with Valvular Disease. Dr. Patrick McCarthy is a heart valve guru having performed over 10,000 cardiac procedures. Currently, Dr. McCarthy is the #1 recommended heart valve surgeon at our Surgeon Finder tool.

Keep on tickin!

Traveling Timeline After Heart Surgery

By Adam Pick on November 25, 2013

Travel during the holiday season is expected to increase this year, up from the 93.3 million travelers who ventured at least 50 miles away from home this time last year, according to AAA. Although many medical professionals recommend avoiding traveling during recovery, it seems practically unavoidable during this family-centered season. However, just because you might be going against this advice, it doesn’t mean you should throw all caution to the wind. These tips break down some important considerations for traveling after heart surgery.


Traveling After Cardiac Surgery


Two weeks

The National Health Service recommends checking with your airline BEFORE flying, since companies have varying regulations on post-surgery travelers. However, the Civilian Aviation Authority says that 10 to 14 days is sufficient after chest surgery or a coronary artery bypass graft. After any heart operation, patients should remain moderately active to keep the heart pumping. Avoid tight clothing to prevent circulation inhibition as well.

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The Challenges of Adopting Transcatheter Valve Devices in the United States with Dr. Ziyad Hijazi

By Adam Pick on November 22, 2013

During the past 24 months, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two transcatheter valve therapies — the SAPIEN and the MitraClip — for select patient populations in the United States. While these FDA approvals represent significant progress in the adoption of transcatheter valve technologies, I’ve met with several physicians and patients who continue to be frustrated by the relatively slow path by which next generation devices becomes available in America.

To learn more about the challenges and opportunities of adopting transcatheter valve therapy in the United States, I recently interviewed Dr. Ziyad Hijazi, a leading interventional cardiologist, from Rush Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois. Here are the highlights of my conversation with Dr. Hijazi.



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Brian’s Guest Post: Life Beyond Heart Valve Surgery, Pulling Together a Running Team

By Adam Pick on November 21, 2013

When I joined Heart Valve Journals in September of 2012, I had really one thing in mind, “Could I continue running til surgery and after surgery would I be back to where I was at?”  In June, I was told that I needed to have surgery but decided not to fully believe that since I had no symptoms that I could see and was running 20-30 miles a week, completed a half marathon just months before and was planning a full marathon in November.


Brian Walsh
Brian & His Three Sons


Well, it came to reality in October and November when my Internal Cardiac Device (ICD) Defibrillator sent a shock through my body from my heart hitting over 180 and then 190 beats per minute.  As I reflected back on my journal entries, I remember this time too well.  This was the reality check I needed and the time I needed to talk it out with my wife to give me the peace to go ahead and get this surgery behind me.  The encouragement from this website was something I really needed as people I did not know reached out through the guestbook, provided information and I read story after story about success from others.


Brian Walsh - Former Patient & Runner
Brian 3 days after surgery, loving being photographed in my gown


Now, here I am almost 1 year from my surgery and back at full strength in my running, preparing for my first half marathon since surgery in April and trying to give back to this great community in any way I can.  I know there are many other passionate runners out here, some pre-surgery, some in recovery and many post surgery.  I already have a list of a few, Scott Newson, Mitch Friedman, Jim Jones, Peter Woglom, and John O’Neil.  Now, I want to get more and give back to the heart community as a whole, so here is the plan.

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MitraClip Gets FDA Approval: 5 Facts You Need To Know

By Adam Pick on November 19, 2013

In case you missed it… The MitraClip just received a Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approval in the United States. This is REALLY big news as the MitraClip is now the first-and-only transcatheter valve therapy for patients with leaking mitral valves, also known as regurgitation. Using the MitraClip, physicians can treat defective mitral leaflets without causing any trauma to the patient’s sternum or ribs. Yep, you read that right. No cracked bones!


MitraClip FDA Approval (2013)


To educate our patient community about the significant implications of the MitraClip’s FDA approval, I contacted Dr. Scott Lim, a leading interventional cardiologist at the UVA Advanced Cardiac Valve Center at the University of Virginia. As you might recall, I saw Dr. Lim perform a MitraClip procedure a few years ago. To date, Dr. Lim’s team has performed over 100 MitraClip procedures.

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Medical Mission Update: In The Dominican Republic, Four Patients Get A “Second Chance” At Life

Written By: Adam Pick, Patient Advocate, Author & Website Founder
Published: November 8, 2013

I recently traveled from Los Angeles to the Dominican Republic for a medical mission to treat patients with heart valve disease. Since I had never been on a mission, I didn’t know what to expect. After the mission, I can share that this five-day event altered my perception of human kindness. I was touched, moved and inspired by the patients, their families, the nurses and the doctors who came together for this extraordinary mission.

While in Santo Domingo, I saw four patients get a “second chance” at life. While in Santo Domingo, I saw three medical teams — Mount Sinai Hospital, Piedmont Heart Institute and Hospital General de la Plaza de la Salud — achieve surgical success. While in Santo Domingo, I also had a camera and a microphone which captured several beautiful moments on film. That said, I created the video below to share this experience with you.



On behalf of the patients, their families and friends, I would like to thank the Mitral Foundation for organizing and financially supporting this mission. In particular, I would like to thank Dr. David Adams, Dr. Ricardo Lazala and Gideon Sims for inviting me to Santo Domingo for the mission. I would also like to thank each person from The Mount Sinai Hospital and Piedmont Heart Institute teams including Dr. Gregory Fischer, Dr. Fred Lajam, Dr. Federico Milla, Dr. John Gott, Juan Obando and Mary Joy Santillan.

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Minimally Invasive Specialist, University of Virginia Advanced Cardiac Valve Center, Launches Microsite!

By Adam Pick on November 7, 2013

In 2010, I was very lucky to tour the UVA Advanced Cardiac Valve Center at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. During my visit, I observed a transcatheter MitraClip procedure performed by Dr. Scott Lim and Dr. Gorav Ailawadi.  Since then, I have met several other members of the UVA team — including Dr. Irving Kron and Dr. John Kern. Together, this team of dedicated cardiologists and surgeons has treated many patients in our community like Robert Elliot, Todd Breeden and Susan Houk.

For these reasons, I am very excited to announce that the UVA Advanced Cardiac Valve Center just launched a Heart Valve Clinic Microsite at So you know, the University of Virginia provides patients many options for valvular care. As a complement to its traditional surgical approaches, the UVA team has also pioneered and participated in several clinical trials for minimally invasive techniques include transcatheter aortic valve replacement and mitral valve repair.


UVA Advanced Cardiac Valve Center Microsite


On behalf of the patient and caregiver community at, I would like to thank all of the members of the UVA Advanced Cardiac Valve Center for its support of our website — with a special thanks to Dr. Kron, Dr. Lim, Dr. Kern, Dr. Ailawadi, Meghan Bradley, Adam Printy and Ginger Aylor.

Keep on tickin!

Surgeon Q&A: The Rise of Tricuspid Heart Valve Surgery with Dr. McCarthy

By Adam Pick on November 5, 2013

You may have noticed that most patients in our community have been diagnosed with an aortic or mitral valve disorder. Recently, however, I’ve been contacted by several patients who have tricuspid valve defects.

As the tricuspid valve is often called the “forgotten valve” in medical literature, I wanted to help all patients learn more about the rise of tricuspid valve surgery. For that reason, I just filmed an educational video with Doctor Patrick McCarthy, a tricuspid valve surgeon from Northwestern Medicine.



I hope this video helped you learn more about the increase in tricuspid valve treatment in isolated cases and in concomitant mitral valve repair procedures. To learn more about tricuspid valve surgery, I encourage you to read “Evolving Trends in Tricuspid Valve Surgery”, an excellent research paper by Doctor McCarthy.

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John Fox, Denver Broncos Head Coach, Scheduled for Aortic Valve Replacement

By Adam Pick on November 3, 2013

Since launching this website in 2006, I have followed the heart valve procedures of many public figures including Robin Williams, Barbara Walters, Ed Koch, and Barbara Bush.

Yesterday, we learned that John Fox, the head coach of the Denver Broncos, is scheduled for an aortic valve replacement surgery on Tuesday. Coach Fox, who was aware of his valvular disorder, was planning to undergo surgery during the football off-season.


John Fox - Denver Broncos Coach - Heart Surgery PatientJohn Fox, Denver Broncos Head Coach, Heart Valve Surgery Patient


However, on Saturday, Fox began experiencing symptoms while playing golf with his friends. Shortly thereafter, Fox was brought to a hospital, where an ultrasound revealed he needed aortic valve surgery as soon as possible. (So you know, the early news reports that Coach Fox had a heart attack were incorrect.)

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Caregiving After Heart Surgery: 5 Tips for a Speedy, Healthy Recovery

By Adam Pick on October 30, 2013

Going in for surgery is not easy, but it can be equally challenging on the caregiver as on the patient. Post-op care requires patience, compassion and a bit of basic medical knowledge to smooth your loved one’s journey after heart surgery.


Caregiving After Heart SurgeryDeb Ziegler, Mitral & Tricuspid Valve Patient, with Josie & Jim


1. Figure Out the Patient’s Preferences BEFORE Surgery

As with many aspects of a relationship, communication about surgery expectations is key. Don’t wait until your loved one is recuperating on a couch to find out what he or she needs. Instead, have a detailed discussion in the days or weeks leading to the surgery. Does the patient want visitors after arriving home? What types of foods make him feel best when she’s sick? Do books, movies or video games relax him? Discuss these aspects of post-surgical care before the operation to ensure you’re both on the same page.

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Patient Success Story: After TAVR Procedure, John Gerlits Is Out Of The Hospital In Two Days!

By Adam Pick on October 25, 2013

Recently, I met John Gerlits, a patient diagnosed with aortic valve stenosis four years ago. As John had a history of heart disease, he qualified for the new transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) procedure. If you didn’t know, TAVR is a minimally invasive procedure in which the aortic valve is replaced without an incision to the patient’s sternum or ribs.



To help patients in our community learn more about John, I created this educational video. In the video, you will also hear from John’s physicians — Dr. Chris Malaisrie, cardiac surgeon, and Dr. James Flaherty, interventional cardiologist — about the use of TAVR for inoperable and high risk patients. For the hearing impaired members of our community, I have provided a written transcript of this video below.

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Free eBook & Video: “Advantages of the Ross Procedure” Webinar

By Adam Pick on October 17, 2013

Great news!

Our recent webinar, “Advantages of the Ross Procedure”, went really well. Over 140 patients and caregivers registered to learn critical insights about aortic valve disease and treatment from Dr. Paul Stelzer, a leading cardiac surgeon at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. In particular, the webinar focused on the advantages of the Ross Procedure for patients with valve defects including aortic stenosis and aortic regurgitation.


Ross Procedure eBook


If you were unable to attend the webinar, no worries. I created two ways you can access the information shared during this hour-long event with Dr. Stelzer. You can either:

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Technology Update: The Two-Part Vitality Heart Valve Replacement Explained by Ivan Vesely, Founder of ValveXchange

By Adam Pick on October 15, 2013

New heart valve companies don’t pop up often. The last time there was an innovation rush in this field was about 10 years ago, when several transcatheter heart valve companies were launched to develop valves delivered to the patient’s heart via catheter.  Since that time, the Edwards SAPIEN class of products got FDA approval in the United States, and a whole bunch more are being sold in Europe.

As we have previously discussed, TAVR procedures (also known as TAVI) is really great for patients that are high risk or inoperable. But… What about new valve replacement technologies for patients that are not sick enough for transcatheter valves? Well, there really hasn’t been a start-up company — with a unique approach to valve replacement therapy — in years. Then came… ValveXchange.


Ivan Vesely, Founder ValveXchangeIvan Vesely, Founder of ValveXchange


Originally started by noted heart valve scientist, Ivan Vesely, and having roots in the internationally renowned Cleveland Clinic, ValveXchange is a development-stage, Colorado-based company that is making waves with it’s two-part valve platform.

To learn more about ValveXchange and its potential implications for our patient community, I interviewed Ivan Vesely, its founder.

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