Adam's Heart Valve Surgery Blog – Page 75

What Do Valves In The Heart Do?

By Adam Pick on August 18, 2007

I just received an email that asks, “What do valves in the heart do?”

Considering the complexity of the body and your heart, it’s a great question.

Often times I find that answering this question helps both heart valve surgery patients and caregivers.

The answer to the question, “What do heart valves do?”, is actually pretty simple. The four valves in your heart – mitral valve, aortic valve, tricuspid valve and pulmonary valve – are used to control the flow of blood through your heart.



When heart valves function properly, the valves help blood move in the heart in one direction. However, when there are problems with a heart valve (aortic stenosis, mitral regurgitation, calicified leaflets, etc.), blood can flow backwards or blood can not freely flow through the heart.

If a heart valve defect or heart valve disorder is significant, several long-term problems can occur for the patient. That is why heart valve surgery – either heart valve repair or heart valve replacement – may be required.

I hope that helps answers your question of, “What do valves in the heart do?”

Keep on tickin!

Foods For People That Had Open Heart Surgery

By Adam Pick on August 18, 2007

One of the many things I love about life is… Food.

In fact, right now I’m waiting for my new bride, Robyn, to get home from work so we can go out for dinner and officially start the weekend. But, as of this moment… SHE’S LATE AND I’M STARVING!!!

I guess that brings up a pretty interesting topic… Foods For People That Had Open Heart Surgery!!!

My gut tells me you might want to know if your food consumption will change following cardiac surgery including open heart valve repair or open heart valve replacement.

“Am I right?” (If no, skip this blog.)

Oh, good. You’re still reading. That must mean you’re somewhat interested to know whether or not there are any special foods for patients that had open heart surgery.

So you know, I had aortic valve replacement in 2005. One of the reasons I chose this surgical option (known as the Ross Procedure) was because I did not want to take any medication (Coumadin) after my heart valve surgery to prevent clotting on a mechanical valve.

Continue reading this post »

What Are The Common Open Heart Surgery Survival Rates?

By Adam Pick on August 16, 2007

I write this blog twenty months after open heart surgery. In 2005, I had a double heart valve replacement surgery via the Ross Procedure.

So you know, I am now fully recovered. I am back surfing after heart surgery and I just Scuba dived for the first time since my aortic and pulmonary valve replacements.

“Why I am I telling you this?”

I share this with you – the patient or caregiver – to help you understand that most patients do not die from open heart cardiac surgery. Trust me. The statistics are real.



Continue reading this post »

What Is Mitral Valve Buckling?

By Adam Pick on August 16, 2007

Every once and a while I get stumped. I mean really stumped! Well. Today is one of those days.

I just received an email that I will do my best to answer. However, if you have anything to add, feel free to provide some insight in the comments section of this blog.

The question reads, “What is mitral valve buckling?”

This is the first time I ever heard of mitral valve buckling. So, I did a little research. It appears that mitral valve buckling appears to be directly associated with mitral valve prolapse.

As you can read in this discussion, mitral valve prolapse results when one of the heart valve flaps (also known as a leaflet) moves back into the atrium when the heart beats. This prolapse can let blood flow from the ventricle back into the atrium as shown in the anatomy of the heart.

The phrase “mitral valve prolapse” was popularized due to the rise of echocardiograms.



However, according to “The Echocardiographic Assessment of the Floppy Mitral Valve”, prolapse was first described via angiograms as a buckling motion of the mitral leaflets into the left atrium.

So, unless I’m missing something it appears that mitral valve prolapse and mitral valve buckling are actually one in the same. It is more of a definition issue than anything else.

Keep on tickin!

From A Surgery Waiting Room In Texas…

By Adam Pick on August 15, 2007

Good news!

As many of you will find out, the time leading up to the actual heart valve surgery operation can be quite anxious. At times, the fear of heart valve repair or heart valve replacement procedures can leave the patient and caregiver sleepless.

That said, one of the BEST parts of the heart surgery experience is when the operation is OVER.

Many times, I hear from my book readers or their caregivers following surgery. Today, was one of those days. Two caregivers for Melissa Causey, her husband (Bryan) and her uncle (Ted), sent me two excellent updates. (FYI, Melissa had the Ross Procedure, also known as the Switch Procedure, performed by Dr. William Ryan in Texas.)

Apparently, Melissa is a “Star” heart surgery patient. According to Bryan, Dr. Ryan completed the aortic and pulmonary valve replacements in about five hours. The big news is that Melissa was sitting up in her chair four hours later. That’s an INCREDIBLE start to recovery!

Go Melissa! Go!!!


Surgery Waiting Room Of Melissa Causey
Melissa Causey’s Caregivers Read The Patient’s Guide
To Heart Valve Surgery
During Her Heart Valve Surgery


As for Ted’s email to me, I had to share it word-for-word with y’all (that’s my best Texas accent). It really made me smile from ear-to-ear. Here it is:


Adam,I thought you’d get a kick out of this. The picture (above) was taken in the waiting room shortly after we learned Melis was undergoing the Ross Procedure.Note the book on Cheryl’s (Melissa’s cousin) lap. And, I’m sure you can guess where Bryan was surfin’ on his laptop. Ted


I’m amazed! I never thought this book and website would end up in a surgical waiting room in Texas. As my mom said to me yesterday, “You have turned a lemon – your surgery – into lemonade.”

Keep on tickin!

Dr. Ali Kafi – Heart Valve Surgeon, Detroit, Michigan

By Adam Pick on August 15, 2007

For all you Michiganders out there… I recently came across Dr. Ali Kafi while watching some heart valve surgery videos online. Here is some information about Dr. Kafi.

Ali Kafi , M.D. is board certified in thoracic surgery and specializes in surgical ventricular restoration and transmyocardial revascularization.


Dr. Ali Kafi, Heart Surgeon


In addition to his clinical practice, Dr. Kafi is an educator – teaching other surgeons how to perform complex surgical procedures. Ali Kafi has published articles and presented on various thoracic surgery topics. Dr. Ali Kafi practices at the Detroit Medical Center.


If there are any cardiothoracic surgeons you would like me to profile, please let me know.

Keep on tickin!

What About Respirators After Open Heart Surgery?

By Adam Pick on August 14, 2007

A greeeeaaaaaaaaaaat question just came in about waking up in the ICU. It reads, “Adam, when I come to (wake up) in the intensive care unit will I be on respirators after open heart surgery.”

There are two possibilities here. “Yes”, you will be on a respirator connected to a vent tube or breathing tube, after surgery. The other answer to this questions is again… “Yes”, you will be on a respirator after heart surgery.

The only difference between the two “Yes’s” is whether or not you remember it.

I know that’s a little tricky but you have to remember that your mind and body will be heavily sedated from the anesthesia administered during your cardiac procedure. That said, the body will need some help “waking up”. Specifically, your lungs need some help. For that reason, most patients are on respirators after open heart surgery. The respirator can also help clear any excess fluid out of the lungs.


My Picture Just After The Vent Tube Is Removed


Continue reading this post »

What Does An Xray Of Sternum After Open Heart Surgery Look Like?

By Adam Pick on August 14, 2007

In prior posts and discussion, I have called open heart surgery a medical miracle. The fact that a surgeon can open you, stop your heart, fix it, start it again and then stitch you up is, in my opinion, AMAZING!!

However, as a patient, I remember an immense amount of fear related to the “miracle”. My concern was not related to the success of the operation or my own mortality (click here to see why).

Instead, one of my biggest concerns was the “cracking of my sternum”. As an athlete, I had broken bones before. However, the central and sensitive nature of the chest did make think twice (if not a hundred) times as I headed into my operation. I was just very curious to know what the sternum fracture healing process would be like.

That said, I thought you all might like to see an xray of sternum before and after open heart surgery involving a cracked chest (aka median sternotomy). The first sternum xray is provided below. As you can see the chest plate is smooth and clear of any fracture.


Xray Of Sternum Before Open Heart Surgery


Continue reading this post »

What Are The Symptoms Of Bacterial Endocarditis?

By Adam Pick on August 13, 2007

My inbox just received an email that I can relate too.

The email reads, “Adam, What are the symptoms of bacterial endocarditis? Is chest pain a symptom of endocarditis?”

Before I dive straight into the answer, you should know that I was initially diagnosed with a bicuspid aortic valve as a little boy. I think I was five years old when I learned about my heart murmur.

From that moment on, I had to pre-medicate every time I saw the dentist. My mom told me it was very, very, very important to take medication every time I went for a cleaning or a cavity filling.

Now, I don’t like the dentist to begin with… So, this just added to my resistance.

At the time, I had no idea that my parents and dentist were protecting me from the problems of bacterial endocarditis. For those of you who don’t know, bacterial endocarditis is an infection of the heart’s inner lining (endocardium) or the heart valves. Problems of bacterial endocarditis can damage or even destroy your heart valves.


Symptoms of Bacterial Endocarditis


According to the American Heart Association, there are about 29,000 cases of endocarditis diagnosed a year.

Continue reading this post »

You’re Going To Do Great Melissa!!!

By Adam Pick on August 13, 2007

Hey everybody,

Just wanted to give you a quick update on Melissa Causey from Texas.  Her surgery was rescheduled for this Tuesday. If you have a minute, please send her a great, big healthy thought!

FYI, Melissa is having the Ross Procedure performed by Dr. William Ryan.

Here’s a picture of Melissa, her husband (Brian) and their daughter (Abigayle).


Melissa Causey - Heart Valve Surgery Patient


You’re going to do great Melissa!

Keep on tickin,

P.S. Your Uncle Ted loves you lots and lots!!!

Are There Any Adverse Effects Of Pig Valves?

By Adam Pick on August 12, 2007

It’s one thing to be diagnosed with a heart valve disorder. It’s another thing to be told that your heart valve problem has worsened and you need heart valve surgery.

I remember that moment all too well. I also remember the next set of thoughts that raced through my mind as my cardiologist gave me the sixty-second overview on heart valve replacement surgery. Questions immediately raced through my mind as the cardiologist spoke to me about open heart surgery and my diseased aortic valve.

  • Who will be my surgeon?
  • What surgical option should I choose?
  • When should I schedule heart valve surgery?

For patients requiring heart valve replacement surgery, another question that arises is, “Which valve should I select for my replacement? What are the pros and cons of that replacement valve type?”

As you are probably aware, there are five categories of valve replacements – human valves (homograft), cow valves, pig valves, mechanical valves and your own valve (an autograft used for the Ross Procedure).

Recently, I received an email, that focused on the biological valve replacement alternatives from animals – including cow and pig valves. The question was simply, “Adam, what are the adverse effects of pig valves?”

Before answering the question, you should know a little bit about pig valves. First off, the more scientific name for pig valves are porcine valves. That’s not a critical point but it does sound a tad better.


Pig Valve Replacement Manufactured By Edwards Lifesciences
Edwards Lifesciences’ Mitral Pig Valve Replacement


Continue reading this post »

What Are The Usual Patient Preparations For Open Heart Surgery?

By Adam Pick on August 12, 2007

Hi there everybody,

Earlier today, I received an email that reads, “I’m scheduled for heart valve surgery in two weeks, can you please tell me what is the usual prep for open heart surgery?”

That’s a really good question for one critical reason. As I personally learned during my open heart surgery experience, knowing what to expect is incredibly helpful for both the patient and their caregivers. That said, knowing the answer to “What is the usual preparation for open heart surgery?” eliminates the fear of the unknown.

That’s key… Eliminating fear. There are all types of fear with regards to heart surgery – mortality rates, physical recovery, pain after surgery, operative success, reoperation, etc. To help you minimize your fear (if you have it), you may want to read an excerpt of my book, “Dispelling The Fear Of Heart Valve Surgery” by clicking here.

So…. Getting back to the original question, “What is the usual prep for open heart surgery?”

I can detail some elements of the prep here in this blog. But, you should know, it’s a big question to answer. FYI, there are two chapters about this topic in my book, The Patient’s Guide To Heart Valve Surgery. That being said, here are some of the steps that your surgeon may require prior to your surgery:

  • Blood work to determine your blood type and other parameters of your body chemistry. If you like, you may draw blood in advance of the surgery. Otherwise, the hospital can typically match your blood via their blood bank. The stored blood may be used if a transfusion is required during your surgery.
  • Urine analysis to learn more about your particular body chemistry. Specifically, urine can be helpful in understanding the functioning of your bladder and kidneys.
  • Although I didn’t require it, you may need an angiogram.
  • A pre-surgery electrocardiogram to further examine the rhythm of your heartbeat and further screen for any cardiovascular disease.

Furthermore, you will be required to sign a Consent For Surgery. If improperly prepared for this moment, it could be a very challenging episode in your heart valve surgery preparations.

I hope this helps!

Keep on tickin!

Cardiac Rehabilitation Program – Patient Recovery Tip!

By Adam Pick on August 10, 2007

Hey everybody,

When it comes to a successful open heart surgery recovery program, cardiac rehab exercise is critical. Although your cardiologist and surgeon may have a cardiac rehab program already lined up for you post-operation, you may want to find your own cardiac rehab center.

“Why do I care so much about helping you find the right cardiac recovery program?”

Well, after my surgery… Neither my surgeon or cardiologist suggested a cardiac rehab exercise program for me. At eight weeks after my open heart surgery, the result of not attending a cardiac rehab center was devastating. My upper chest was a mess. Specifically, my incision area was incredibly sore and my physical confidence was gone.

I think because I was on the younger side of open heart surgery patients (33 years old), my doctors felt I would “snap-back” into shape. That was a faulty assumption in my case. (FYI, I learned a lot about this while doing research for my book. In actuality, only 49% of patients register and attend cardiac rehab programs during their recovery. In my opinion, cardiac rehab exercise is a must for an efficient and healthy recovery from open heart surgery.)

Anyways, my mom and I located a cardiac rehab progam after consulting with a pain management specialist.


Adam At Torrance Memorial Cardiac Rehab Program


Continue reading this post »

Cardiac Surgery History, Some Helpful Facts & Links

By Adam Pick on August 9, 2007

Ready for a crash course called, “Heart Surgery History 101”?

I don’t know about you… But, as I was preparing for a double heart valve replacement surgery of my aortic and pulmonary valves, some of the questions that ruminated in my cranium were:

In light of these questions, I did what most heart valve surgery patients do… I Google’d it!!!!

I wanted to know more about the cardiac surgery history and guess what… Google did not let me down.

Under the search term cardiac surgery history, there were over 2.1 million pages of information.

Under the search term heart valve surgery history, there were 1.7 million pages of information.

And, under the search term heart lung machine, there were 1.9 million pages of information.

(FYI, for fun, I Google’d my own name, Adam Pick. I did the search in quotes – like this “adam pick” – to filter random queries. Only 1,150 pages of information. I guess I’m not as popular as the heart surgery terms above.)

With that said, I found some bits of information and created a page of information to help you better understand the history of heart valve surgery and heart bypass surgery. Click below to read it!

Cardiac Surgery History Including Heart Valve Surgery History And Cardiac Bypass

Keep on tickin!

Cheers To The Caregivers!!!

By Adam Pick on August 8, 2007

Hey everybody,

Ever since I launched this site and published my book, I have received many, many, many emails from the caregivers of patients needing or recovering from heart valve surgery – both heart valve replacement and heart valve repair.

Needless to say, these emails are beyond touching and heartwarming (pun intended). 🙂

It is soooooooo wonderful to read about the love and support that family and friends have for those needing help. I’m trying to post a lot of these stories on this blog, but it is really hard to keep up. The stories of Ted Eisenmann and Michelle Browning exemplify what I’m talking about.

For this reason, I wanted to take a quick, electronic moment to acknowledge all of the caregivers that are helping their loved ones through this trying time. If that means you… Thank you for all you do! Thank you for doing research on heart valve surgery! Thank you for easing the mind of your loved one. Thank you visiting this site!

You are making a tremendous difference in the life of the person you care for!!!

That said, “Cheers To You!!!!”

Robyn and Adam Pick On Our Honeymoon in Fiji.


FYI, this is a picture of Robyn and I on our honeymoon in Fiji last month. I must say, Robyn is not only my wife, she is my inspiration. During my recovery from double heart valve replacement surgery, I suffered a number of setbacks. Each time, Robyn was there to support me, to encourage me and, most importantly, to listen to me. I am so thankful we were setup on a blind date three years ago.

Keep on tickin!

The Realities of Cardiac Depression after Open Heart Surgery

By Adam Pick on August 2, 2007

I just received an interesting email from Carol that directly relates to heart surgery recovery. Carol writes, “Hi Adam – My husband had mitral valve replacement three weeks ago. I’m curious… Did you experience depression after heart valve surgery? Is it common for patients to experience cardiac depression following heart valve repair or heart valve replacement?”

Let me start by answering Carol’s first question. Yes, I did experience both heart surgery and depression. I had my pulmonary and aortic valves replaced in 2005. As for cardiac depression, I did not have any immediate form of depression during my 5 days in the hospital or during the first three weeks following my heart valve replacement surgery recovery. However, as I entered into my fourth week of recovery, I did begin to experience many symptoms of this post-operative condition.


Man Experiencing Cardiac Depression After Surgery


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Listen To Heart Sounds: Normal and Abnormal Heart Sound Audio

By Adam Pick on July 28, 2007

There are many ways to diagnose diseased or defected heart valves. One of the simplest methods to diagnose problematic heart valves is to listen to the patient’s heart beat sound through a stethescope.

During my diagnosis, my cardiologist listened to my heart murmur sound and said, “Yep. That is definitely the sound of a heart murmur!” As it turned out, I had a bicuspid aortic valve that suffered from stenosis and regurgitation.

I was always curious to know what my heart sounded like. I knew there was a muffle sound to it which indicated the murmur. However, I never heard exactly how a heart beat sound differed between a normal heart sound and an abnormal heart sound.

Well… I recently searched Google and YouTube, looking for heart sound audio. I was amazed what I found by simply typing “listen to heart sound” in the search engine.


 Taking A Listen To My Heartbeat Sound After Surgery
“No More Murmur!!!


I even pulled out my own stethoscope to see how my heart sounded now versus the other abnormal sounds on the web. My heart sounded pretty darn good after my double (aortic and pulmonary) valve replacement!!!

That said, here are some heart sounds (and an educational explanation) if you would like to hear the murmurs for yourself:



I hope that helped you learn more about normal and abnormal heart sounds.

Keep on tickin!

In Fiji, I Go Scuba Diving After Heart Surgery

By Adam Pick on July 27, 2007

As most heart valve surgery patients will share with you, there is a certain amount of fear that appears during the recovery from open heart surgery. As an heart valve surgery patient, your sternum has been cracked and your heart has been stitched….. OUCH!!!

That said, most patients typically require a recovery period following heart valve surgery which is used to restore (i) mental confidence and (ii) physical capability of the upper chest. As a former cardiac surgery patient, I can personally relate and attest to this.

From stretching at cardiac rehab to running along the beach, it takes a significant amount of time to heal and get back in the physical swing of things. The saying, “No pain. No gain.” actually applies somewhat to heart valve surgery recovery.


SCUBA Diving After Heart Valve Surgery
Robyn and I Scuba Dive In Fiji On Our Honeymoon


I’ll never forget when my surgeon told me to “Play through it Adam!” Dr. Vaughn Starnes, my cardiothoracic surgeon, was referring to the soreness and pain I complained about in my chest. “Your heart is doing great,” he said, “Better than before! Now you just need to play through it. Your discomfort is muscular-skeletal.”

I took those words of wisdom to heart (pun intended).

Soon enough, I found myself lifting light weights, swimming laps in the pool, riding my bike and even running. Once I graduated from cardiac rehab, I took on another challenge… Returning to my surfboard!!! (See my “Surf’s Up!” blog to read about my return to surfing.)

Recently, I broke through another physical barrier that I will share with you:

In 1999, I became a certified SCUBA diver. Shortly thereafter, I became a SCUBA diving nut. During the following five years, I logged over 100 dives across the United States, Mexico, the Carribean, Bali and Thailand. SCUBA diving is an amazing sport. It’s probably the closest I will ever get to being an astronaut.

Considering my valves were replaced using the via the Ross Procedure in 2005, I figured that my days of SCUBA were over! However, just to be sure, I emailed Dr. Starnes and asked him whether or not I could SCUBA dive following my cardiac surgery. His response was clear. The email read, “You are fine to go scuba diving after heart surgery.”

I have to admit I was happy and concerned at the same time. On one hand, I desperately wanted to get back in the water, submerge 50 feet and swim with all types of fish, eels, sharks, coral and anemones. On the other hand, I was a little frightened that Scuba diving after heart surgery could be disastrous. “What if something wrong happens?” I thought to myself. “What if the pressure under water compromises my valves?” A million different “What if’s” drifted through my brain.

Well… Fear, as you probably know, can be a dangerous mind-game. Someone once told me that fear is really nothing more than a foolish acronym, F.E.A.R.

  • False
  • Experiences
  • Appearing
  • Real

Life is too short to be controlled by F.E.A.R., right?

Needless to say, during my recent honeymoon to Fiji… I slipped into a wetsuit, popped on my buoyancy control device, and.. BLEW SOME BUBBLES!!! (That’s diver slang for going SCUBA diving.)

Guess what? I’m still alive!!!!

Guess what? Robyn, my new bride, also dived with me. It was her first dive. She did great!!!

Now… What else can I do? Maybe… Go to Tibet and climb Mount Everest like Veronika Meyer?

We’ll see!

I hope this helped you learn more about Scuba diving after heart surgery.

Keep on tickin!

Heart Valve Surgery Patient In Fiji?

By Adam Pick on July 23, 2007

Hey everybody,

So, I’m on my honeymoon in Fiji… It’s been 19 months since my Ross Procedure.

Life couldn’t be better!!!

After an amazing wedding, Robyn and I are enjoying a wonderful resort in Savusavu called Namale. Our days are filled with Scuba, snorkeling, hiking, horseback riding, bowling (yes bowling), backgammon and… an endless supply of tasty food.

One night, Robyn and I are sitting around the Kava bowl meeting other honeymooners and enjoying Joe, the lead guitarist of the Namale band. Next thing I know, I’m speaking with Pettine, a delightful member of the Namale staff. Pettine has a contagious laughter and the warmest smile.

We share our backgrounds and somehow it comes out that I had heart valve surgery a few years back. Pettine looks at me with concern and says, “Noooooooooooooo. You? You look sooooo young! Heart surgery? Come onnnnn. Noooohhh?”

Pettine simultaneously points to her chest with both hands and queries me, “Ya mean the surgery with the scar down the middle of your chest?”

I nod my head up and then…. I nod my head down, “Yes”.

Continue reading this post »

My Stitched Heart Gets Hitched!

By Adam Pick on July 8, 2007


Robyn and I got married yesterday.

An amazing, perfect day in Malibu…

So many wonderful memories…

I am the luckiest man in the world.

We’re off to Fiji for the honeymoon.

Keep on tickin!

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