Hello, My name is Brandon Hammer and I am 47 years old and live in Las Vegas, NV. In June of 2019 I was diagnosed with endocarditis. I was on 15 weeks of antibiotic therapy over which time I had 3 separate pics lines in my heart. At the end of the antibiotic treatment I was told that the infection was no longer active but unfortunately there was some damage done to my mitral valve. I was told by my cardiologist that it was merely a vegetation growth that would be re-absorbed by my body within 6 months or so. That proved to be incorrect. It took the better part of a year, due to Covid, to get into the hospital for a (TEE) transesophageal echocardiogram to see the extent of the damage. I was told by the cardiologist that I had severe mitral valve regurgitation and was in need of a mitral valve replacement. I was shocked and scared to say the least and immediately began searching for the best hospitals and top heart valve cardiac surgeons to perform this surgery. Needless to say I was frightened beyond belief and saw my life slipping away before me. Being newly married in November of 2019 and in the process of trying to start a family only made it harder when reflecting on the 'what-ifs'. I decided to have a consultation with Dr. Joanna Chikwe of Cedars Sinai in Beverly Hills, CA who is one of the top minimally invasive, robotically assisted cardiac surgeons in the country and the founding Chair of the Department of Cardiac Surgery at the Smidt Heart Institute. I called her office and was scheduled for an immediate consultation a few days later at the Smidt Heart Institute with Dr. Joanna Chikwe, Asma Hussaini (DR Chikwe's P.A.) and Mary Alvarado, the Patient Service Representative. Upon arriving at the Heart Institute I was greeted by a caring and understanding staff who made me feel safe and comfortable while talking through my options. Dr. Chikwe was confident that she could repair my mitral valve and a replacement would most likely not be necessary as my Cardiologist had told me. I was in the Hospital for emergency Mitral Valve Surgery within a few days. The entire Cedars -Sinai hospital staff made me feel very comfortable leading up to the surgery and in the days following the procedure. I was discharged from the hospital after a few days with minor discomfort and a new outlook and hope for my life. It has been about 3 1/2 weeks since my surgery on 10/22/20 and I am feeling great! Recovery has been surprisingly easy due to the minimally invasive procedure and I returned to work a few days ago. As I write this, my new heart is filled with gratitude and my eyes are filled with tears for the caring and very capable Dr. Chikwe and the entire staff at Cedars-Sinai for saving my life. I hope that each and every one reading this who must face this unsure and frightening challenge in their lives can take some comfort in knowing that there are special people like Dr. Joanna Chikwe and her staff that are there for us in our biggest time of need.
May God Bless you all.