Richard’s Story - Heart Valve Disease Awareness Day

Reader Story

Richard’s Story

I’m a 64 year-old male and have always been very active and healthy. I had a routine of working out on a regular basis doing both cardio and weight training for years. In the spring of 2018 I started getting short of breath with a minimal amount of exertion. I had trouble finishing 10 minutes on elliptical machine and 2 times almost passed out in a yoga class that I was taking. I thought that I was developing allergies or perhaps adult onset asthma as everyone I know was complaining about how heavy the pollen was that spring. I went to my GP for a physical and told her my symptoms. She tested me for my breathing capability and that was fine but she did detect a heart murmur. An EKG in her office didn’t appear any differently than the past year but she referred me to a cardiologist anyway just to be on the safe side. The cardiologist scheduled me for an Echo, a stress test and a heart catheterization all on the same day. I had the echo first and afterwards the technician told them there was no need for me to have the other two tests and scheduled me for a follow up appointment the next day. I felt relieved and thought that the reason the other tests were canceled was because nothing was found. Boy was I wrong! You can imagine my shock the next day when the cardiologist told me that I had severe aortic valve stenosis and probably a result of a congenital defect of having a bicuspid valve. I left his office in shock but more tests were scheduled and revealed that my arteries were pristine and the only plaque build up was on the valve. I had open heart surgery on August 1 and the valve was replaced with a bovine valve. The surgical team at Mt. Sinai in NY was wonderful and in 7 days I was going home. I did not do cardio rehab as my surgeon did not recommend because I am so active. By the end of 3 weeks I was walking 8 miles a day. I returned to work the third week of September. I also returned to the gym at that time with a slightly modified routine but I am getting back to normal. The biggest change I noticed was that I tire more easily and I have had some unexplained bouts of depression.