Adam's Heart Valve Surgery Blog – Page 60

I’m The Target! Please Criticize Me And My Blog!

By Adam Pick on July 29, 2008

Hey everybody,

Thanks for all your nice emails and comments. However, do me a favor… PLEASE CRITICIZE ME AND MY BLOG! That’s right. Fire away. I’m the target pictured below! And… there is no need to be nice about it.

“Why is Adam asking me to do this?” you may be wondering.

Well… I want to make this blog better. The only way I can do that is to ask YOU for honest feedback. So please, please, please help me out (if you have a moment). What do you like about the blog? What do you dislike about the blog? What other features would you like included in the blog?



I’m open to any and all suggestions. I really want to make this website a helpful resource for all patients and caregivers preparing for, or recovering from, heart valve surgery.

You can either leave a comment below or send me an email at I’ll get back to you asap.

In advance, thanks.

Keep on tickin!

Were You Asymptomatic Upon Diagnosis Like Sherri?

By Adam Pick on July 23, 2008

If I had to define the process of being diagnosed with heart valve disease in one word, I would use the word “dislocating”. I’ll never forget my initial diagnosis from Doctor Bad Bedside Manner. And, I’ll never forget those strange feelings of, “Oh my gawwwwd. Is this really happening? Open heart surgery? Am I going to die?”

As you would imagine, I’m not the only patient to experience those dislocating feelings and emotions. What made my situation more challenging to digest… I was almost completely asymptomatic. Of all the leaky heart valve symptoms, I only had one symptom.

Guess what? I’m not the only patient to experience that strange combination of being asymptomatic and being diagnosed with heart valve disease – aortic valve stenosis or mitral valve regurgitation. In fact, I just received an interesting email from Sherri (pictured below with Farah, her dog) about this exact topic.



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Melissa Causey, 11 Months After Ross Procedure Surgery… Feeling Great!!!

By Adam Pick on July 22, 2008

There is nothing better than hearing from one of my readers after their open-heart surgery recovery is complete.

Recently, I received a very nice note from Melissa Causey. As you might remember, Melissa had a Ross operation in 2006 by Dr. William Ryan in Texas. She attached a recent picture that I have posted below.



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Fazilat’s Collarbone Pain Travels Up Scale

By Adam Pick on July 17, 2008

For most patients, open heart surgery recovery is filled with pain.

Pain levels vary, so the medical community developed pain scales to help patients better communicate with their medical team in the hospital and during cardiac rehabilitation. If you are a future patient, be prepared to see something similar to the pain scale example below.


Pain Scale After Heart Surgery


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How Does A Heart-Lung Machine Work?

By Adam Pick on July 17, 2008

I get several patient questions about the heart-lung machine. Here’s a quick video with Dr. Oz that describes how the heart-lung machine works.



I hope this helped you learn more about the heart-lung machine!

Keep on tickin!

My Scar Fades As We Celebrate In Hawaii After Surgery

By Adam Pick on July 13, 2008

Aloooooooooha Everybody!

Robyn (my wife) and I just returned from celebrating our one-year wedding anniversary in Hawaii. Needless to say, our vacation was incredibly fun and most importantly… relaxing. The weather was spectacular and the food, especially the fish, was extraordinarily yummy.

I uploaded two pictures below. In one of the photos, you can see that my open heart surgery scar continues to fade through the years.




If you are curious, I used Mederma Scar Gel to help heal my incision scar during the recovery from aortic and pulmonary valve surgery.

Keep on tickin!

Like Many Patients, Jim Lehrer Is Very Thankful After A Successful Aortic Valve Replacement Operation

By Adam Pick on July 13, 2008

You just don’t know how good you have it until life offers you a great, big piece of Humble Pie, right?

I know that’s how I felt following my double heart valve replacement. After the cardiac depression… After the pain… After the fear of needing a heart valve re-operation… I was so thankful for everyone and everything around me. My friends and family, in particular, rallied around me like guardian angels. They lifted me up with encouragement, support and lots of good love.

You should know that this feeling of “thankfulness” is common among heart valve patients. To prove it, I recently surveyed 78 patients about their feelings towards their heart valve repair or valve replacement operations. Guess what? The majority responded that heart valve surgery had a “positive impact” on their lives.

As you may have read in a prior blog, Jim Lehrer, PBS broadcaster, recently had aortic valve replacement surgery. The trusted anchor of “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer” recently returned to his television.


Jim Lehrer, Aortic Valve Replacement Surgery


During the closing of a recent show, Lehrer offered the audience his own, personal take on the outcome of his heart surgery.

“Before we go tonight, a few personal words, if I may. Mostly, there are just two words: Thank you. Thank you for the messages of concern and encouragement the last two months. I wanted to respond personally to each, but there were just too many, thousands of them, and still counting. I read every one of them. They mattered very much to me. There is no mystery about what happened. The aortic valve in my heart went bad and it was replaced, skillfully and perfectly. I will be easing back to work a couple or so days a week at a time, so please don’t think anything’s gone wrong again when I turn up missing. For the record, one of my doctors said a valve procedure like mine is known to make a person feel and act 10 years younger, so stay tuned.”

Well said Jim!

Keep on tickin!

Radiation Leads To Endocarditis And Aortic Valve Replacement For Jennifer’s Husband

By Adam Pick on July 13, 2008

Thanks to the wonderful patients, caregivers, nurses, cardiologists and surgeons who write me, I continue to learn many interesting and helpful details about heart valve surgery. That said, I often take those emails and post them in this blog for you to review as well.

Recently, Jennifer wrote me about the health challenges of her husband. In her note, Jennifer shared her thoughts about the harmful impacts of radiation pills on heart valve function due to infection.

Dear Adam,

Good morning! I received your heart valve surgery book I ordered from you on Saturday afternoon. Needless to say by Saturday night, I had finished reading it.

A quick brief rundown of our situation… Back in March, 2008, my husband took radiation pills to kill an overactive thyroid. A week after he took the pills, he became extremely sick with a high fever, chills, etc.

It seemed to get better. But, over time, the symptoms never went away. It was like clockwork. Every evening, my husband would get chills, sweats, low grade fever, aches, pains, just plain misery. This went on for 2 months.


Bacterial Endocarditis - Heart Valve Infection Disease


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Number Of General Anesthesia Operations Per Year in the United States

By Adam Pick on July 13, 2008

Depending on who you talk to, general anesthesia is either one of the GREATEST or WORST parts of heart valve surgery.

I can see both sides. On one hand, general anesthesia is great because your pain receptors are numb. On the other hand, general anesthesia can be scary for patients because your brain and body are, quite frankly, paralyzed. Plus, there are many patients, nurses and doctors which suggest that general anesthesia may have some lingering effects on the brain and body that are not all positive.



As for me, I opted to value the benefits of general anesthesia during my aortic valve replacement. I am aware that some patients are now having open heart surgery while awake but, for me, I didn’t want that experience.

Recently, I was asked the question, “How many patients receive general anesthesia each year during any type of surgery?”

It’s an interesting question.

After doing some research, which included watching the movie “Awake” starring Jessica Alba, I learned that approximately 21 million patients will be under general anesthesia each year. FYI, that number is for all surgery types, not just cardiac-related operations.

Keep on tickin!

Human Heart Valves – Anatomy, Helpful 3D Animation

By Adam Pick on June 30, 2008

This is very interesting!!! (Especially, for those of you wanting to learn more about human heart valve anatomy.)

I just came across a three dimensional, reconstructive image of the human heart valves. While this animation also shows echocardiogram images (on the left), I was more fascinated with the colorful, 3D presentation of the heart valves opening-and-closing (on the right).

If you look close at this 3D image of the heart, you can see the leaflets of the mitral valve, the aortic valve and the tricuspid valve. Unfortunately, the pulmonary valve is not visible.


3D Image Of The Mitral Valve


So you know…

When I learned that I needed aortic and pulmonary valve replacement operation, I wanted to learn as much as possible about the human heart and its heart valves. My hope is that these types of pictures will help future patients and their caregivers better understand the anatomy of their own hearts before heart valve repair or heart valve replacement operations.

Keep on tickin!

Dr. Raney Shifts Gears During Brian’s Aortic Valve Surgery

By Adam Pick on June 30, 2008

Robyn (my wife) will tell that I don’t really like to use cliches.

But, if there is one thing I have learned since my heart valve replacement surgery, it is that “there are no guarantees in life”.

Yes. I did just use a cliche. But, it is sooooooo appropriate to heart valve surgery. As you may already know, there are risks, there are uncertainties and there are surgical complications that are undeniably associated with cardiac surgery.

As we have already seen (in patient stories from Leslie Lafayette or Brad Mueller), “there are no guarantees in heart surgery”.


Brian - Patient Heart Valve Surgery
Brian – Aortic Valve Repair Patient In Hospital


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The Risks Of Smooching A Heart Valve Patient?

By Adam Pick on June 30, 2008

When I receive a patient or caregiver question that is unique and interesting, trust me… you are the first to read about it.

For example: This morning, I woke up, gave Robyn (my wife) a kiss as she left for work, made a cup of coffee and then turned on my computer. Among all the spam emails that I quickly deleted, there was a question from Bhupinder about kissing heart valve patients.

Bhupinder’s question was, “Hi Adam, Is there any risk to kiss or to smooch a heart valve patient? Please advise. Thanks! Bhupinder”


Kissing A Heart Surgery Patient


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Swimming After Heart Surgery – Good or Bad Idea?

By Adam Pick on June 21, 2008

As a follow-up to my recent blog about cardiac rehabilitation exercises, Tony just asked me, “Is it okay to swim after open heart surgery? Do you swim? If so, how long did you wait to go swimming after your aortic valve replacement?”

Thanks Tony! These questions just brought back a flood of wonderful memories specific to my recovery from valve surgery.

So you know, I am a fish out-of-water. I’ve been lucky to live near a pool and/or a beach my entire life. As a kid, I was a swim-a-holic. At the age of three, I was racing in meets against six year-olds. In fact, here is a picture that my mom recently found.


Adam Pick Swimming Before Heart Surgery At 2 Years Of Age
Adam – Three Years Old Swimming (Before Heart Surgery)


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The Annual Costs Of Heart Disease… Oh My Gawd!

By Adam Pick on June 21, 2008

Amongst patients, the costs of heart surgery can be a delicate discussion. As you can read, the costs of heart valve surgery vary from patient-to-patient.

To some extent, the initial billings associated with fees from the hospital, the surgeon, the anesthesiologist and the cardiologist can make your jaw drop to the floor.


American Heart Association


Regardless of what your heart surgery cost will be, I was just reading a fascinating report by the American Heart Association. According to a 2006 study, the AHA believes that the total annual cost of heart disease is…

Go ahead…

Take a guess….

Really… Venture a guess…

$258 BILLION DOLLARS PER YEAR!!! (Yes. That was with a ‘B’ for billlllllllion.) You should know that estimate includes medical services, medications and lost productivity from people affected with heart disease.

My jaw just dropped to the floor again.

Keep on tickin!

Coumadin Facts Suggested By Sean For Patients – Video

By Adam Pick on June 20, 2008

Yesterday, Sean made some interesting comments to Nancy about the risks of Coumadin use. In his response, Sean referenced an online video for patients and caregivers to learn more about the use of blood thinners (anticoagulants) to prevent clotting for those patients that select a mechanical heart valve replacement.



I just spent some time reviewing the video on anticoagulation (Coumadin / Warfarin). Sean was right on. Dr. Gaudiani does a great job with this one. While the video can be a little technical, it is rich with information for people looking to learn more about the advantages and disadvantages, risks and opportunities of Coumadin use.

Thanks Sean!

Keep on tickin!

Nancy Considers Risks Of Coumadin Therapy

By Adam Pick on June 18, 2008

For most patients, the process of selecting a replacement heart valve can be tricky. These days, there are several options to consider. Plus, we can be influenced and (quite frankly) confused by friends, family members, nurses, cardiologists and surgeons who maintain their own opinions about tissue valves and mechanical valves.

One of the big considerations specific to mechanical heart valve replacements is the use of blood thinners (e.g. Coumadin) to prevent clotting. Patients have different thoughts on Coumadin therapy and its impact on their lives. Some patients feel that using Coumadin is simply “no big deal.” Others find the ongoing use of Coumadin to be burdensome and, at times, problematic.



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Cardiac Rehab Exercises – What Are The Best To Do After Heart Surgery?

By Adam Pick on June 18, 2008

Cardiac rehabilitation programs are a critical, and sometimes overlooked, part of heart surgery recovery. As my 2007 survey showed, only 51% of patients attended structured classes with cardiac rehab exercises during their recovery. In my opinion, that is a shame. I could go on-and-on about the physical and mental benefits of good cardiac rehabilitation programs.

However, I just received a quick question that reads, “What types of exercises do you do at cardiac rehab centers?”


Cardiac Rehab Excercises Program


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“Depression After Cardiac Catheterization?” Asks Samantha

By Adam Pick on June 18, 2008

I recently received a unique question from Samantha, a caregiver. She writes, “My husband recently had a cardiac catheterization and appears to be depressed. Is it common for patients to become depressed following a catheter procedure?”


Patient Experiencing Depression After Cardiac Catheterization


This is a phenomenal question. Unfortunately, I do not have a phenomenal answer.

However, I can share with you that your husband may be feeling common emotions of patients newly diagnosed with heart valve disease. Specifically, the biggest emotional challenges patients experience leading up to surgery, in my opinion, is fear, confusion, doubt and, most of all, loneliness.

Those emotions may or may not trigger your thoughts about a “depression” related to cardiac catheterization. It could be isolated to that one event. But, my gut tells me there is more to the story.

One thought for you… Patient cardiac depression following heart surgery can be a monster. In some studies, between 30% – 75% of patients experience some form of depression. Dr. Scott Mitchell recently stated, “I think there is a significant incidence of acute post-operative depression.” That said, if you feel your husband is having behavioral challenges pre-surgery, you may want to consider some form of counseling (therapy) for him to assist and support his recovery.

I hope that helps share a little bit about depression and cardiac catheterization / heart surgery.

Keep on tickin!

Cardiac Quiz: Can You Find The Four Heart Valves?

By Adam Pick on June 18, 2008

Below you will find a neat animation of blood flowing through the human heart.

As you can see, blood is pumped through the atria into the ventricles and back out to the body and lungs.

Here is your cardiac question of the day, “Can you identify each of the four heart valves shown within this animation?”



Don’t struggle. If you need a refresher on heart anatomy, watch this video about the four heart valves and their main function (opening and closing).

Keep on tickin!

Off-Topic: The Two “Gs” Of Inflation

By Adam Pick on June 18, 2008

I know I typically write about all things related to heart valve replacement and heart valve repair.

However, I can’t get over what’s happening to my wallet… It’s shrinking right before my very eyes.



There’s obviously no need for me to rant-and-rave about the first G of inflation… GAS! We hear about it. We read about it. It’s all over the news. And, every time we fill up our cars, SUVs and trucks, that little voice in the back of our brain screams aloud, “OH MY GAWD!”, as the price goes up-and-up-and up. In fact, with gas prices up 20% since last June, my local gas station cuts me off when I reach $75 at the pump. A trip to Costco doesn’t make it any easier. Lines for cheaper gas are always nine-to-ten cars deep.

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