“At seven months post-op, I ran my first 5k ever and at 15 months I just completed my first 10k!”

I received my On-X aortic valve on April 5, 2010 at the age of 40 after a few months of declining health. Shortly after birth, it was determined that I had a mitral valve murmur that would likely not cause any issues throughout my life. I had not had my murmur checked for a number of years as I did not have any symptoms or issues of concern, until early 2010 when I came down with what I thought was a cold, which quickly moved to my chest.

Thinking this was bronchitis or pneumonia; I tried over the counter meds and eventually went to a general practitioner that treated me with antibiotics and steroids. This had no impact. In fact, it made things worse. I progressed to the point of losing my breath after 5-10 steps. The GP took an x-ray of my chest which included an outline of my heart, which showed to be enlarged. He suggested that I have an echocardiogram (echo) done immediately. In doing so, it was found that my ejection fraction (EF) was in the 20%-25% range, and that I was experiencing heart failure symptoms caused by severe aortic stenosis that had progressed from a congenital heart (aortic valve-news to me) defect. After a heart catheterization and transesophageal echo (TEE), it was determined that surgery to replace the valve was required immediately. In fact, the situation turned from doctor visits to an emergency transport to be admitted into the hospital where the surgery would be performed. I, of course, was in complete denial the entire time.

Upon arriving, discussions were had with the surgeon in reference to my situation and the available options (tissue vs mechanical). At my age, my primary concern was around the possibility of re-op, therefore my entire family came to the conclusion that mechanical was the way to go. My surgeon actually chose the On-X valve for me based on my request for a mechanical valve–which after post-op research, I am very glad he did!

During the operation, it is my understanding that my EF was in the 15% range, and my condition had quickly became very critical. The remainder of the surgery and my recovery was uneventful (considering) and what I feel was very successful. At first, I could hear and feel my heart beating constantly. My kids also claimed to hear my heart beat across the room and/or in the car, but this diminished as my heart grew used to the new found flow freedom.

Today, I notice and/or hear my heart beat occasionally. Typically when I am in a quiet room, sitting in certain positions (with my left arm elevated), or when lying down at night in certain positions when the house is very quiet. At times it is a bother, but nowhere near as bothersome as my shortness of breath every time I walked across the room. In fact, at seven months post-op, I ran my first 5k ever and at 15 months I just completed my first 10k, the Atlanta Peachtree Road Race. I firmly believe that my entire life was held back by this unidentified congenital heart defect that created this valve stenosis at my age, but I can honestly say that my new On-X valve has been a gift, allowing me to live a longer and fuller life with my family.

Thank you,

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