As many of you are already aware, I have a heart condition called sub-valvular aortic stenosis. The problem is two-fold. I have a membrane (think of it like extra tissue) that has grown below the base of the aortic valve. This poses a problem since the left ventricle must pump harder to push the blood through the overgrown membrane. The stenosis means the opening of the aortic valve has thickened, which restricts the flow of blood through the valve. My two previous open-heart surgeries were to remove that same membrane, which apparently likes to reappear. There had been some talk during the last surgery of needing a valve replacement, however the doctors did not think it was necessary at the time.
Well, it looks like the time is now.
In early November, I started having some random chest tightness/pressure, so I made an appointment with my cardiologist for the end of the month. About a week later, the pressure became consistent, so my cardiologist decided to admit me to the hospital for a full cardiac workup.
After three days at United Hospital, and a battery of tests, I was referred to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester for a consult. The doctors noted the membrane had returned and is now severely impeding the flow of blood. In addition, there is severe thickening of the aortic valve and the left ventricle, which is causing my heart to work way too hard. The recommendation is clear – I need to have open heart surgery to remove the membrane (again) and replace the aortic valve…. soon. This being my 3rd open heart surgery, there are higher risks involved so everyone agrees that the Mayo Clinic is the best hospital to have this surgery.
For those who are interested in the technical details….
I will be undergoing a KONNO procedure. The KONNO procedure involves resecting the membrane that has regrown around the valve and attaching a patch. The purpose of the patch is to ensure the valve fits properly and hopefully, prevent the membrane from returning.
I will be receiving a mechanical valve instead of a tissue valve. Mechanical valves have a longer life span, roughly 30 years, but I will have to take anticoagulants for the rest of my life. It seems like a small price to pay for a healthy functioning heart!
It was also discovered I have an anomalous coronary artery, meaning one of the coronary arteries is not attached to the heart as expected. As luck would have it, the artery is located extremely close to the aortic valve (the guest of honor for this surgery). However, now that the surgeon knows about this obstacle, he feels confident this will not negatively impact the surgery.
My family and I have spent a lot of time processing this information. Yes, we are scared, but we are also at peace with the decision to move forward with the surgery. After speaking with the surgeon (Dr Joseph Dearani), I have confidence in his experience and ability to correct the issues with my heart to allow me to resume a normal life with my friends and family. Obviously, there are a lot of concerns. There is never a good time to have open heart surgery, and the recent spike of COVID cases is unnerving. The doctors and surgical team will take every precaution necessary to ensure my safety and a successful surgery, despite the challenging circumstances.
My recovery begins with a 5-7 day stay at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. Due to COVID restrictions, I will not be able to have any visitors, including Brian. We’ve been assured that my medical team will be in constant contact with Brian during my surgery and hospitalization, and they will even help me to FaceTime with my family frequently. In all honesty, though, I will be busy with recovery, cardiac rehab and resting so I’m glad Brian won’t have to sit around bored in the hospital. He can be home to help Ethan continue to learn the art of adulting, help Addi with distance learning, and train Penny NOT to chew up the entire house.
My recovery will continue at home for several months. During the surgery, they will need to break my sternum in order to access the heart, which will require 6-8 weeks to heal. During this time, I will have limited mobility and will be unable to drive, wash my hair by myself, or pick up Penny.
I will find out the first week of December when my surgery will be, most likely in January. However, there is a small chance it could happen earlier. Until then, I am to rest & take it easy.
If you are faithful person, I ask for your prayers for me, Brian & my children. Due to COVID, Bryant will remain in Seattle and that is difficult for all of us for him not to be here. I also ask for prayers for my medical team. If you are not a faithful person, I ask that you send good vibes and thoughts my way.
My partner in crime and fun times, Kim, will be updating this site during my hospital stay to help keep everyone updated. Brian & I will both add updates as we are able.