A retired engineer gets to enjoy the Mediterranean life with his On-X heart valve

I am a retired Engineer (Bsc,Msc,C.Eng) and I live in Europe. When I heard in 2005 at 66 years old that my aortic heart valve had to be replaced because of calcification, I decided to find out which manufactured heart valve would be the right replacement for me taking into account that the end of my lifecycle would be at about 80 years if all goes well. There is a saying “man plans and God controls” (or something similar). I did not want another open heart surgery during my life cycle–6.5 hours of it including 2 bypasses and complications afterwards from the long administration of opiates for pain is enough for me!

My research led me to consider and choose between the SJM and On-X heart valves. My decision to go with the On-X valve was influenced by the following:

  1. The answer to the question I posed to On-X Life Technologies: “Why should I choose an On-X heart valve?” was met with politeness, professionalism and references to published literature and study reports with facts about the On-X valve as well as its design features. There was great patience and understanding after numerous follow up questions from me.
  1. The results of a ten week study by Flameng and Meuris (March 2002) referring to the results of SJM, On-X and CMI valves that were implanted in sheep without anticoagulation. The superiority of On-X heart valves was proven by longer living sheep having the On-X valve during the 10 weeks as compared with the other valves.
  1. The preliminary and on-going results of a clinical trial in South Africa presented by Mervyn Williams in 2002. The On-X heart valve was implanted in patients who were observed for about 3 years and 42% were not properly anticoagulated but no major thrombotic events were present.
  1. The hope that I might later be able to go without Coumadin (or Marcoumar in Europe) if aspirin only could be safe enough to be used as an anticoagulant for the On-X valve.

Since my operation in 2006, I have monitored the anticoagulant level (2-3 INR) via a ROCHe anticoagulant meter at home with the aim to use as low as possible anticoagulation level and as near as possible to the value of 2.

I have noticed that garlic therapy also enhances the anticoagulation level. Before my operation a blood analysis indicated an INR of 1.8 using only raw garlic 3 times a day. I have to ask why Garlic + aspirin is not considered as blood thiner but only trials with aspirin are done. Garlic also increases also the elasticity of the blood vessels which aspirin does not do and aspirin also absorbs vitamin C.

After my operation I had one month rehabilitation at the cost of the national health system of Austria. There they closely monitored my medical care, provided physical rehabilitation and gave us a diet plan to help lose weight. I had a personal doctor allocated to follow my progress and had reference echocardiograms. Daily I had bicycle ergonomic measurements to see my progress regarding heart healing.

After the rehab, it took me half a year to be normal again and to go back to my daily routine which included the changes I learned to support my heart operation and avoid obesity and possible diabetes. I follow a low glycemic index diet after evaluating the number of Mediterranean foods I like (feta cheese, whole wheat grain bread with olive oil, tomatoes, oregano, fish and red wine). Of course from time to time I go to extremes when I go out or we are invited, but afterwards I am aware if being” a marked man” as one of my doctors said. Then I compensate with a bit more physical exercise and diet.

I have lowered my weight progressively and am now enjoying life. I do notice however the decay in my mental state. Instead of solving sudoku, I have a hobby involving electronic design and construction of gadgets, repairs etc, to keep my brain working and organizing and using methods to remember where I put things so that I can easily find them afterwards. And now getting frustrated with Bill Gates decision to utilize stars in the place of letters when typing passwords making it impossible to check what you have inputted, so that you can correct it!

Thanks to the On-X valve ticking in me reminding me that I am alive, I can look forward to many happy years.

Austria & Greece

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