This weekend I celebrated the three year anniversary of my open heart surgery for a prolapse mitral valve repair.
To say it was a life changing experience would be an understatement. Every year since then I remember the second Friday in March as the moment when my life was forever changed in a good way.
When cardiac ultrasound was fairly new in the late 70’s my life long heart murmur was finally diagnosed as a prolapse mitral valve at NYU Medical Center where I worked as a nurse and where my husband was a resident.
I was assured by my physician that this diagnosis was extremely common in women and I probably would never have any problems associated with it. Since I was preparing to leave NY and move to Florida it was good to have a diagnosis associated with my heart murmur.
My pregnancy later on that year was totally uneventful although my physician in Miami treated me as high risk due to my prolapse mitral valve and history of phlebitis.
Not long after my first daughter was born, I developed some “extra” heart beats which were diagnosed as premature ventricular contractions (PVC’s) They were of relatively little concern since I was young and not symptomatic. I was, however, put on beta blockers.
I had another pregnancy complicated by atrial fibrillation very early in the first trimester…scary time for me as I my other daughter was under two …I felt very vulnerable. I was then started on lanoxin in addition to the beta blocker. I was now taking two cardiac medications at a young age.
I was monitored at least twice yearly with cardiac ultrasounds and appointments with my cardiologist. Gradually, I began to have more episodes of atrial fibrillation.
A little over three years ago my cardiologist called me and told me it was time to have “the repair”.
I cried for a moment ….and then went out to lunch with my co-workers.
I decided to wait a few months to investigate the procedure….robotic heart surgery was a consideration…less invasive…quicker recovery. Was I a candidate for robotic surgery?
Where would I have the surgery? Loyola…Northwestern… Cleveland Clinic???
After much research and collaboration with my cardiologists, and my husband…I would have surgery at Northwestern with Dr. Patrick McCarthy. It was not a candidate for robotics.
So three years ago, I walked through the revolving doors of Northwestern Memorial Hospital and into the capable hands of Dr. McCarthy’s team.
It was a very humbling experience… frightening, definitely and it took my whole “heart”, a strong faith in God and many prayers to fully recover…successfully returning to work and living life with my family.
As this weekend comes to a close, I remember and thank all those who helped me through open-heart surgery three years ago…and continue to help me…my cardiologists in Hinsdale, Dr. Patrick McCarthy and his cardiac team at Northwestern, my supportive friends and most of all my family.