Hi I'm Thomas. I am 57 years old. I was born with a bicuspid aortric valve. When I was a child it was detectable, but doctors always told my mom that it was a heart "murmur", a catchall phrase for a heart with a non normal audible sound. When I was in my teens in 1980 I had a congressional nomination to the Air Force Academy, but once again this mysterious murmur was detected at a physical, and it disqualified me from attending the academy. This was disappointing to me especially because I was an active athelete in high school who played football and ran track. I was a high school half mile champion who was able to run that distance in under 2 minutes so it was hard for me to understand that something was wrong with my heart. At the age of 20 I was finally diagnosed as having a bicuspid aortic valve with regurgitation, meaning blood flowed back into my heart due to the "leaky" aortic valve. I was told by my first official cardiologist that I would require surgery at some point in my life most likely before the age of 65. I'm 57 now, and have been told it is time to replace the valve.
I live in Las Vegas where I lead an active lifestyle. I run in the desert at temperatures over 100 degrees at elevations between 3,000 and 4,000 feet on steep hills. My shortest run is 6 miles and my longest run is 12 miles. I also lift weights and do push ups and sit ups three times a week and play softball with the LVSSA, which is a senior softball league out here in Vegas. I quit drinking and smoking on my 40th birthday. I weigh exactly the same at 57 years old, as I did when I graduated high school in 1981, which is 165 pounds. I'm 5'10 feet tall. So I am by no means over weight. I've also never been diagnosed with high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
In September of 2019 while running, I started experiencing a tightness in my chest, and pain under both arm pits. After delays in testing etc due to Covid 19, in August of 2020, I had a trans esophogeal echo and two weeks later an angiogram, which unfortunately revealed a 99% clogged artery on top of the rapidly worsening aortic valve. Once again, I have never been diagnosed with high cholesterol yet my artery is still blocked at the age of 57 while not having high blood pressure, high cholesterol, not being over weight, and on a fairly rigorous exercise regimen.
The valve was not a surprise other than the fact that I was shocked it had narrowed so much beyond 1 cm. So yes I need surgery. But the blocked artery and aneurysm disqualify me from minimally invasive procedures.
I have interviewed one surgeon and on September 30th I will be interviewing another (second opinion). My biggest choice is not so much the surgeon and the hospital, but rather the type of valve, bio or mechanical. I'm well versed on the arguments for and against both types of valves. I'm leaning toward a biological valve even though I will most likely have to undergo a second surgery at some point in the future once it wears out. The mechanical valves seem too risky for sudden catastrophic bleeding events that could lead to death for the sin of being an active individual. What if I fall while running, or playing softball? Can I shoot a shotgun or is the recoil too much and likely to cause significant bleeding in my shoulder? Everything from cutting yourself shaving, biting my tongue by accident, getting a hemmarhoid that bleeds, having a tooth extracted, a colonoscopy, etc becomes a major life event, and I'd rather not go that route for those reasons.
However, I have been seeing a relatively new valve called the ON -x mechanical valve, that reduces the INR of warfarin from 1.5 to 2.0, as opposed to 2.0 to 3.0 for the more prevalent St. Jude valves. My research is now focusing on this valve to determine if the risks from bleeding at the lower INR make this valve a choice that I can opt for, and live with, after it has been placed into my body. My understanding is that there are no greater risks to developing thrombosis but that bleeding risks are reduced by over 60%! But I do not know if this valve is available in Las Vegas, or if the FDA has actually approved the lower dose of warfarin for this specific valve. But I am meeting with a surgeon this week and hope to get clarification on those issues.
I will keep you updated as to my decision on the hospital and surgeon and the type of valve I choose along with my date of surgery.
Please feel free to comment or give advice, that's why I'm on here!
I'll talk to you again soon. Thomas Quigley September 28, 2020.
More Info About Me & My Heart
More About Me
I am from:
Las Vegas, Nevada
My surgery date is:
October 8, 2020
I was diagnosed with:
Bicuspid Aortic Valve
Coronary Artery Disease
My surgery was:
Aortic Valve Replacement
Aortic Aneurysm Replacement
Coronary Artery Bypass Graft