Adam's Heart Valve Surgery Blog – Page 72

Sheep Heart Valve Replacement Created In Lab?

By Adam Pick on April 19, 2008

As we have already discussed, there is much interest in stem cells and heart valve replacements these days. Here’s an interesting report about heart valve tissue generation in sheep.

A Wake Forest University researcher has successfully created eighteen types of tissue, including a sheep heart valve, in his laboratory.

Dr. Anthony Atala, who is studying the science behind growing new organs, uses cells in a laboratory and an ink-jet printer for the purpose.


Sheep Heart Valve Made At Wake Forest Lab


“When people ask me ‘what do you do,’ we grow tissues and organs. We are making body parts that we can implant right back into patients,” the Environmental News Network quoted him as telling CBS. He believes that soon researchers will start growing organs like human hearts in laboratories from a patient’s own cells, doing away with the need for organ donors. Atala even hopes that the injection of stem cells will facilitate the healing of damaged organs internally, reducing the need for open-heart surgery and other invasive procedures.

Keep on tickin!

Neil Gets A Very Interesting Second Opinion Before Heart Valve Surgery

By Adam Pick on April 16, 2008

If there is one question I alllllllllllllllll-ways ask patients preparing for heart valve surgery, it is the following, “Did you get a second opinion?”

I can not emphasize this enough.

Recently, I had a discussion with Neil (a forty eight year old husband, father and very smart businessman from the East Coast). As our discussion began, Neil jumped right to the topic of valve selection – mechanical versus tissue.

I said, “HOOOOOLLLLD ON!!! Did you get a second opinion?”

Neil said, “Ummm. No… My cardiologist is one of the best around!”

I said cautiously, “Hmmm. Okay… But it might be worth it to get some extra feedback.”


Second Opinion - Heart Surgery


Guess what?

Neil took my advice. He got a second opinion.

Another… Guess what?

The second cardiologist noticed something different from the primary cardiologist. Now, Neil may delay his heart valve replacement surgery AND he may be able to have an aortic valve repair instead of a valve replacement!!!

So you know, this does not always happen. In my case, my second opinion completely agreed with my cardiologist. (In fact, Dr. Chaikin accelerated the timing of my surgery.) However, knowing that both cardiologists agreed on my aortic stenosis diagnosis put my mind at ease.

Remember, as the graph above shows, about 35% of patients do not get second opinions. Please do not be one of them!

Keep on tickin!

Guest Blog: Lil’ Taylor’s Heart-Warming Tale

By Adam Pick on April 16, 2008

Again, I find myself touched by another heart surgery success story. Last week it was eighty-three year old John DeFalco that inspired me after his aortic valve replacement operation. This week, it is all about Taylor, a two-year old with that needed cardiac bypass surgery.

Her mother, Michelle, tells the story best…


Taylor - Two Year Old After Pediatric Cardiac Surgery


Dear Adam,

My daughter was 18 months old and had ASD repair. There is potential she may need a valve replacement. After surgery, July 5, 2006, she had a small valve leak. As of Fall of 2007 it is a moderate leak, but no heart enlargement.

Continue reading this post »

That Unexpected “Full Monty” Body Hair Shave

By Adam Pick on April 14, 2008

Looking back on my aortic valve replacement procedure, I remember several, distinct moments of physical and mental confusion. I might even consider that confusion as “dislocating” considering the process of having heart surgery is so foreign to regular, every-day life.

Sometimes, that dislocation evolved into fear (e.g. cardiac depression). At other times, that dislocation actually transformed into tremendous joy (e.g. taking my first shower after surgery).



One of my “dislocating moments” was entering the pre-operating room. I’ll never forget that final hug with my family after the nurse called my name. I’ll never forget the nervous tremors in my hands as I pushed the door open.

Continue reading this post »

Joanne’s Incentive Spirometer Trick

By Adam Pick on April 12, 2008

If anyone knows that laughter is the best medicine, it might just be Joanne Harris.

Over the past few months, Joanne and I have emailed back and forth regarding her heart valve surgery. Joanne had a mitral valve repair with maze procedure. She suffered from mitral valve regurgitation (leaking heart valve).


Patient, Joanne Harris, Using The Incentive Spriometer After Heart Bypass Surgery


Anyways, I recently received a note from Joanne that really shows her incredible attitude towards her cardiac bypass surgery, her broken sternum recovery and her innovative ways to trick the incentive spirometer used to defend against fluid in her lungs.

Continue reading this post »

I Used A Great Scar Cream Called Mederma…

Written By: Adam Pick, Patient Advocate, Author & Website Founder
Page last updated: November 7, 2023

I just received a great, often-overlooked question from Tim who asks, “Hey Adam – I just saw the pictures of your chest scar after heart surgery. I’m curious to know… Did you use any special creams or gels to assist in the incision healing?”

The answer to that question is a definite “Yes!” I used a product called Mederma. The gel is an over-the-counter product that does not require a prescription. You can purchase Mederma at most pharmacies. If you are interested, they have a $2 off coupon at the Mederma website. 🙂


My Chest Scar After Surgery


Mederma Gel For Chest Scar Treatment After Open Heart Surgery


Scar After Heart Surgery


However, please make sure that you ONLY USE MEDERMA as directed. Do not use Mederma right away. I think you need to wait two weeks after your surgery. And, I made sure it was okay with my surgeon, before I started using it. My surgeon, Dr. Vaughn Starnes, looked at the Mederma ingredient listing on the package and said, “This looks pretty good. Go ahead and try it out!”

Keep on tickin!

Debbie Takes Her New Valve Back To Edwards Lifesciences

By Adam Pick on April 2, 2008

A little over a month ago, I visited Edwards Lifesciences to tour its heart valve manufacturing museum and learn more about Edwards’ heart valve replacement devices (pig valve transplants, cow valves, minimally invasive technologies).

After reading my blog, Debbie (a recent heart valve surgery patient) decided she wanted to visit Edwards as well. A few emails later, Debbie was on her way to Edwards’ headquarters in Irvine, California to visit the world’s largest heart valve manufacturer. Considering that Debbie’s cow valve replacement was manufactured by Edwards, I guess it was sort of a homecoming for Debbie’s new pulmonary valve.


Debbie Day And Family Tour Edwards Lifesciences


Continue reading this post »

Is Good And Bad Medicine All Around You?

By Adam Pick on March 30, 2008

As you read the success stories of heart valve surgery patients (Veronika Meyer, John DeFalco, Taylor Browning, Leslie LaFayette, Raye Gilliamsen, John Turan), it is great to see that medical care can have an incredibly positive impact on heart valve disease.

However, it seems like everywhere I turn these days, reports of bad medicine are all around me. In the past few days, I’ve read or watched terrible stories about:

  • Trasylol and heart surgery
  • Drug administration mishaps that endangered and/or resulted in the unfortunate passing of several children
  • Negligent surgical preparations alleged to be the source of Stephanie Kuleba’s recent fatality

During a 60 minutes report about Dennis Quaid’s children, I heard a troubling statistic. The actor revealed that over 100,000 hospital deaths occur each year as a result of human error. That’s more fatalities than AIDS, breast cancer and auto accidents combined.


Forbes Report About Medical Error And More


Continue reading this post »

Blood Bank Safety Questioned By New Study

By Adam Pick on March 30, 2008

Prior to heart valve surgery, patients are faced with many, many, many questions. One of those questions is specific to potential blood loss during the operation. That question is, “Would you like to donate your own blood or use blood from the hospital blood bank?”


Blood Bag Safety For Patients


I’ve written about this topic of blood banks and heart surgery before.

However, I just read an interesting article at the Mercury News which reveals that heart surgery patients treated with donated blood older than two weeks were more likely to die or suffer problems than those treated with fresher blood.

Which makes these findings — about blood bank safety — even more problematic is that blood supply is chronically low.

“If the shelf life was reduced from 42 to 14 days, we just wouldn’t have enough blood around,” said Dr. Ross Herron, medical director of the American Red Cross Bay Area, which sends blood to hospitals throughout the East Bay and South Bay. “We need to have that shelf life to move blood around.”

I did not donate my own blood prior to my aortic valve replacement operation. Luckily, Dr. Starnes did not need a transfusion during my surgery. However, given these findings I would probably change that approach if I was to need heart surgery again. To learn more about aortic valve replacement, click here.

I hope this helps you better understand blood bank safety.

Keep on tickin!

Four Heart Valves – How Do They Open And Close?

By Adam Pick on March 30, 2008

A few days ago, I posted a blog about what normal heart valves look like.

Well… Here’s a quick, interesting follow-up to that story about each of the four heart valves.

I was just on and came across a very neat video which shows each of the four heart valves opening and closing within during heartbeats – the aortic valve, the mitral valve, the tricuspid valve and the pulmonary valve.



It’s a pretty fascinating video that shows not one but each of the four heart valves, so I thought I would share the link.

I hope this helps better explain how the four heart valves open and close.

Keep on tickin!

Pssst… Don’t Forget About The 24 Hour Pharmacy

Written By: Adam Pick, Patient Advocate, Author & Website Founder
Page last updated: November 7, 2023

The incision on my chest was throbbing.

It was two weeks after my aortic valve operation and I had taken my last Vicodin several hours earlier. While we had a refill, it was late at night (around 9pm) and our local Rite-Aid was closed.

Robyn (my wife) frantically searched Rite-Aid’s website to find a 24 hour pharmacy. Luckily, there was an all-night pharmacy about twenty-five minutes away. In a split-second, she kissed me good-bye and was out the door.


Rite Aid Pharmacy - Twenty Four Pharmacy


She returned about an hour later with my pain medication. (Robyn is my guardian angel.)

My point of this little story? Be prepared. If possible, find out (in advance of your heart valve surgery) where a local 24 hour pharmacy is. You may need it for pain medication, severe constipation, etc.

Keep on tickin!

At 83 Years Young, John DeFalco Is “Bored” With His Recovery

By Adam Pick on March 25, 2008

Given my recent blog about heart valve surgery in patients over eighty, I thought you might like to read about John DeFalco from Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

His daughter, Coreen writes to me:

My father, John DeFalco, is 83 years old. Due to his age, our doctors told us he was at high risk for aortic valve replacement surgery. (Click here to learn about AVR.)


John DeFalco, Eighty Three Year Old Heart Surgery Patient Success Story


Continue reading this post »

Aortic Aneurysm & Ross Operation Does Not Stop John Turan!

By Adam Pick on March 24, 2008

This is the courageous, patient story of John Turan. As you will read, John had a triple-whammy heart surgery – a Ross Operation (aortic and pulmonary valve replacements) AND his ascending aorta was replaced due to an aneurysm.

I could go on-and-on about John, Mercy (his wonderful mother) and Dr. Bleiweis (his incredible surgeon), however, I think it’s best to hear his side of the story.


John Turan - Ross Operation and Aortic Root Replacement Patient (Florida)


Continue reading this post »

Homecoming Question – What About Walking Up And Down Stairs?

By Adam Pick on March 24, 2008

I met Carolyn, a heart valve surgery patient, last Tuesday. We chatted on the phone about her bicuspid aortic valve and her upcoming surgery. Carolyn is currently doing her diligence on surgeons. That said, we talked alot about the process of how to find the right surgeon and how to interview your surgeon.

A few minutes after we hung up the phone, I received a follow-up email from Carolyn.

“Adam, I forgot to ask you something. We live in a two-story home. There is no bedroom on the first floor. Will I have trouble walking up and down the stairs after surgery? I imagine I will have to stay upstairs for a while? After my back surgery (a few years ago), I came down in the morning and went up at night for a while. Any thoughts?”


Patient Practices Going Up Stairs In Rehabilitation Class


Continue reading this post »

Pig Heart Valve Replacement Longevity – How Long Do They Last?

By Adam Pick on March 24, 2008

As a follow-up to my post about pig valve transplants, I received a specific question, “Do you know exactly how long a pig valve might last in the human heart?”

It’s a good question for patients to consider as they determine which is the best valve type for them – biological (pig valve, cow valve) or mechanical.



According to Dr. Isadore Rosenfeld, “Pig heart valves do not last as long as mechanical valves and for that reason are not usually implanted in patients much younger than 60 years.”

Dr. Rosenfeld continues, “Although recent reports from The Cleveland Clinic (whose surgeons have a great deal of experience replacing heart valves) suggest that the newer biological valves often last 17 years or longer, they frequently must be replaced after 15 years. So, except in unusual circumstances, younger patients still are given a mechanical valve.”

I hope that helps explain more about how long pig heart valves last in the human heart.

Keep on tickin!

What About Bicuspid Aortic Valves In Newborns?

By Adam Pick on March 24, 2008

Like many heart valve surgery patients, I was born with a bicuspid aortic valve. However, unlike many of you, I was not diagnosed with the bicuspid aortic valve defect as a newborn baby. It wasn’t until I was five years old that my family doctor heard my heart murmur. After that, diagnosis of the bicuspid valve was formally issued following my first visit to the cardiologist.

After I had an aortic valve replaced, I was curious to know, “How do bicuspid aortic valves impact newborns?” and “What other problems can bicuspid valves cause in newborns and children?”

I knew that the bicuspid aortic valve occurs when the aortic valve does not develop normally while the baby is in the womb. However, I wanted to know more.



Continue reading this post »

Pig Valve Transplants For Patients Needing Heart Valve Replacement Surgery

By Adam Pick on March 24, 2008

I just received a question that reads, “Adam, can you tell me more about pig valve transplants? My surgeon thinks that is the best valve choice for me.”



Sure thing. However, I want to make sure you know there are other options for tissue (also called biological) valve replacements besides pig valve transplants. The four key types of biological valve replacements are:

Continue reading this post »

Heart Valve Disorders And Treatment

By Adam Pick on March 24, 2008

I just received a question that reads, “Can you tell me all the different heart valve disorders, treatment and surgical procedures to fix heart valve disease?”

I have to admit, that is a HUUUUUUUUUUUUUGE question. As you probably know, there are many different forms of heart valve disorders and their are many different types of valvular treatment.

That said, to answer this question about heart valve disorders, treatment and operations would take the rest of the week (and it’s Monday morning).

However, I have created the Heart Valve Learning Center to help you get started answering this question about heart valve disorders, treatment.

Keep on tickin!

Weightlifting After Open Heart Valve Surgery

By Adam Pick on March 24, 2008

I was recently asked by Doug, a patient preparing for heart valve replacement, “Have you been weightlifting after open heart surgery?”

My answer was a definitive and delightful, “Yes. I have lifted weights after open heart surgery.”

However, I DID NOT rush back into the weight room after heart valve replacement surgery. It took several months before I was lifting weights again. You should also know that I never lift to bulk-up.


Lifting Weights After Cardiac Bypass Surgery


Doctor Vaughn Starnes, my heart surgeon, told me that lifting heavy weights puts additional strain on the heart valves. Over time, the strain on the heart valves can become problematic – both before and after surgery. That said, Dr. Starnes told me to lift for tone (repetition) not for muscle build-up. To learn more about my surgeon, click here.

I’ve taken his advice to heart (pun intended) and really focused on aerobic exercises I learned to really enjoy during cardiac rehabilitation.

Remember, heart valve surgery SHOULD NOT be the end of your active lifestyle. However, to be incredibly safe, I suggest you contact your surgeon to discuss weightlifting after open heart surgery. As you probably are aware, every patient is unique.

Keep on tickin!

The Patient Need To Communicate After Heart Surgery

By Adam Pick on March 21, 2008

It was my third day in the hospital. I just had my aortic valve replaced.

Even though my surgery was deemed a complete success, I was experiencing significant respiratory pain due to a common heart surgery complication. There was fluid in my lungs.



It hurt to breathe – like a little pinch or cramp in my left side after every inhale and every exhale. My medical team started me on respiratory therapy. So, throughout the night, I did fifteen minute breathing exercises at 11pm, 2am and 5am.

I was ab-sooooooo-lutely exhausted.

Then, my wonderful family began to arrive at USC Medical Center. It was Saturday morning. The “Adam Pick Family Support Machine” was in full force. First, my wife (Robyn) arrived. Then, my parents, my brother, my sister, her husband and their children trickled in.

Room 550 had turned into a zoo.

Continue reading this post »

Newest Community Post

Jennifer says, "AHA Heart Ball! My husband is on the"
Read more

Kathy says, "Today is my 1st anniversary for mitral"
Read more

Susan says, "4 days post surgery. Doing good. All"
Read more

Find Heart Valve Surgeons

Search 1,500 patient-recommended surgeons