I had my son when I was just 18, and when he was about 6 months old, I developed a cough that just wouldn't go away. I made an appointment with our family doctor, and by some luck he was out of the office that day so I saw his partner instead. That doctor asked me if I had ever been told that I had a heart murmur. Though I had been to several doctors many times during my pregnancy, and even had palpitations during my pregnancy which was attributed to a med to stop pre-term labor, no one ever detected my heart murmur before that. My mother has a murmur that is a non issue, so of course it was assumed that it would be nothing. But I was sent off for an echocardiogram to be sure. It was quite devastating for me to find out that I had two diseased heart valves; I had both aortic valve stenosis and regurgitation and mitral valve stenosis. I was referred to a cardiologist right away. Her opinion was that it was rheumatic heart disease, though it was odd because it doesn't usually show up in people until they are much older than I was. And I also was never sick enough as a child to think I could have had rheumatic fever. The doctor thought that my pregnancy may have exacerbated it. It was all quite puzzling. My condition wasn't severe enough to warrant surgery then, luckily. I lived a fairly normal life, though I was never as active or energetic as people my own age. It wasn't until I was 29 that I finally needed surgery. I admit to skipping a few years of cardiology follow up. I was trying to finish grad school and started to feel truly terrible and I knew I needed to see a cardiologist asap. I couldn't do laundry or walk across the room without being short of breath. I was sent in for a TEE, and sure enough, the aortic valve was leaking severely. I was living in PA at the time and was sent to a surgeon in Philadelphia. When I went in to see him, he told me I was in heart failure and that this surgery needed to be scheduled within 6 weeks. It's not a moment I can ever forget. After a long and tearful discussion, my husband (at the time) and I decided with the surgeon to go for a tissue valve because I was still so young and didn't want to be on coumadin for life yet. I also wanted to have the option of having more kids.
The surgeon said they'd consider repairing the mitral valve while they were in there if they could. So much is blurry from that period of time, but they didn't do anything to the mitral valve and I don't remember why. The aortic valve was successfully replaced with a bovine valve.
I never felt amazing after my surgery like many people do. I mean I certainly felt way better than when I was in acute heart failure, but I have never had a lot of energy, and have always had a baseline shortness of breath on inclines. I believe that is because I haven't had full cardiac capacity in many years since my mitral valve was also diseased.
Well, fast forward 10 years and my yearly echo showed that the tissue valve was declining and my mitral valve was worsening. I hoped and expected my tissue valve would last closer to 15 years, so I was pretty distraught about this.
I've been through a lot of changes in my life since my last surgery, including a divorce, re-marriage, and relocation across the country. I have a 6 year old step daughter now. I started a business last year with my husband. I just turned 40 this year and was feeling so good about my life. I really didn't anticipate needing open heart surgery this year!
Well I sought out the opinions of 3 different surgeons, all of whom were skilled in minimally invasive surgeries. I assumed with all the advances made in the last 10 years, I'd have some other alternative than open heart. I was so upset to learn that I was not a candidate, plus my mitral valve was too diseased to be repaired. After talking with these surgeons, when I first met with Dr Barnhart in Seattle, I knew he was "the one" to do this surgery.
I decided on 2 mechanical valves, which was highly recommended by my surgeon. Though I had big concerns about being on Coumadin for life, I felt very strongly that I did not want to go through the emotional and physical toll of having open heart surgery again. Plus my risks would be much higher if I needed another surgery.
So on April 8th, 2016 I had my aortic and mitral valves replaced with On-x valves. The surgery was more intense than expected because tissue from my bovine valve had grown all around and into the wall of my heart, and ended up requiring them to replace my aortic root too. My surgeon said he'd never seen anything quite like it.
Well, I am now recovering from surgery, it's been a bumpy ride but each week I get stronger. I am grateful to have found this group for the ongoing support I've received. And I'm so inspired by everyone I've met here!
More Info About Me & My Heart
More About Me
I am from:
My surgery date is:
April 8, 2016
I was diagnosed with: