Heart Valve Replacement: A Lifesaving Surgery

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65-year-old Doug James has always led an active life as a musician, actor, and grandfather. But over a year ago, he didn’t feel like himself.¬† He said,”I suddenly didn’t have the energy I used to have. I was just having a hard time breathing. I thought it was the lungs.” After seeing a doctor, Doug found out it was actually a problem with this heart. Dr. Patrick McCarthy, Director of Cardiology at Northwestern Memorial Hospital treated Doug. Dr. McCarthy said, “Mr. James came in and he had heart failure. He was very short of breath, he also had a heart rhythm problem called atrial fibrillation. He was born with an abnormal valve. He only had 2 leaflets instead of the normal 3. And then we actually have to cut out his abnormal aorta valve, the calcified valve, that he had developed, and then we replaced it. We used a cow valve.”

Dr. McCarthy says cow and pig valves are very common replacements, because the risk for stroke is low compared to mechanical valves. Lucky for Doug, the cow valve replacement worked. He is now feeling better than he has in a long time, and he is right back to his passion…music.

The doctor says Doug is lucky that he listened to his body. He says, “This is the kind of heart valve problem that if it goes untreated, it is inevitably fatal. He paid attention to the symptoms, he didn’t know he had heart disease. And so if your body is telling you that things are different, get checked out.”

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