I am 53 years old, and I had no previous symptoms. Here is my story leading up to my diagnosis.
When I was 30, I had a Heart America test. They found I had a heart murmur. I was told that 30% of people have some type of heart murmur, and I needed to have amoxicillin before and after dental work. After completing 1 prescription, I forgot about it. Since 30% people had a heart murmur, it seemed almost normal.
When I was 40, I had a stroke. I was prescribed with Coumadin to dissolve the clot. Within 2 months, I was easily fatigued. My wife who is my guardian angel, Kris, persisted with my doctor that something was wrong. My blood was tested, and my hemoglobin level which should be around 13, was at 4.1. When I walked into the Emergency Room, the nurses said that they had never seen a person walk on his own power with that low level of hemoglobin. That day, I had a blood transfusion of 3 pints. The bad news was that Coumadin was killing me because of internal bleeding that could not be detected (except for my black stools). The good news was that the blood clot in my brain was dissolved, and my recovery was quick with no lingering effects.
One year ago, I had a nose bleed (I never had one before) that would not stop. After 1 hour, my wife and I went to the ER. The good news was that they stopped the bleeding. The bad news was that they used an inflatable balloon; that created a major headache. I came into my doctor's office, Dr. Miele, and my blood pressure was at 170; normally, it's 110. With that high level of blood pressure, my doctor heard my undetected heart murmur. Coincidence? Hardly.
He sent me to a Cardiologist, Dr. Pyka. I had an echocardiogram and a transesophageal echo (TEE) to create a baseline for my heart.
This past September, an echocardiogram showed my aortic valve had aortic insufficiency, severe regurgitation, mildly calcified leaflets, and my left ventricle was moderately dilated (confirmed by my new Cardiologist, Dr. Mushtaq). I met with a Heart Surgeon, Dr. Discher, and he proscribed heart surgery to replace my aortic valve, but his Heart practice was moved to another hospital 45 minutes away from my home. I decided to go back to my original hospital, and Dr. Discher referred me to another Heart Surgeon at Cadence Health, now Northwestern Medicine at Central DuPage Hospital.
In the meantime, I had been reading books on the Camino de Santiago. It is a 500 mile pilgrimage from Southern France to the West coast of Spain where the remains of St. James are buried; the name of my Heart Surgeon … Dr. James. Coincidence? Hardly.
Dr. James has saved many hearts, will save my heart, and will save many more in the future. Dr. James is a saint on earth. He talked with me about either a mechanical valve or a tissue valve. If I selected a mechanical valve, I would need to use Coumadin for the rest of my life. I would have preferred a mechanical valve, but I know that Coumadin will not work for me because of my stroke. Coincidence? Hardly.
A colleague from work told me about Adam Pick and his web site. I love it! Adam, thank you for creating a website so other heart surgery patients can participate in a global community and for authoring a book on education for patients on heart surgery. You are truly a saint on earth.
I have peace concerning about my upcoming heart surgery, no anxiety. What is the cause of my peace and lack of anxiety? It’s not me, I’m only human. No, my peace only comes from God. “Be not afraid, I go before you always, come follow Me, and I shall give you rest.” (Lyrics by Bob Dufford) And I am certain I will walk the 500 mile Camino de Santiago.
God Bless and Rise Up!
More Info About Me & My Heart
More About Me
I am from:
Carol Stream, Illinois
My surgery date is:
December 10, 2014
I was diagnosed with:
My surgery was:
Aortic Valve Replacement
My surgeon is:
Dr. Timothy James
My hospital is:
Northwestern Medicine—Central DuPage Hospital