I’d like to introduce you to Flo. She is my daughter’s bovine replacement aortic valve (Carpentier-Edwards Perimount Magna-East aortic valve) and today we are celebrating her 5th birthday.
Five years ago, we spent the weekend scurrying back and forth to a major hospital in NYC where my 33-year-old daughter was admitted for a strange and unpleasant sensation in her chest. This was very alarming since she had just had her 4th open-heart surgery three months prior to this event at the same hospital. She was kept under surveillance for the entire weekend.
At 9 pm on Monday evening we still didn’t know what was happening. Suddenly, her surgeon, his team and her cardiologist came through the door of the lounge where we were waiting for news. She said she knew instantly what was happening when she saw all of them. She would need additional surgery.
Her recent 4th surgery had failed. She had been given a replacement valve for her aortic valve, and in a couple of places, the actual muscle tissue of her heart was removed and replaced with patches of a new synthetic material designed to bond with her own heart tissue. The intention was to create a greater blood outflow tract below her new aortic valve. However, the synthetic material did not bond to the replacement valve but instead tore away from the valve. That was the cause of that strange sensation she was feeling.
We all sat there stunned. I can’t even imagine how my daughter felt since she had been promised the moon by this surgeon and told she wouldn’t need another operation for probably decades. His next words were about wanting to do the surgery the very next day, as he felt unable to do any other surgeries until he had “fixed” this problem. I think it was more likely that he knew exactly how dangerous her situation was.
The next day, the bravest person I know, my daughter uncomplainingly underwent her 5th open-heart surgery to have the synthetic patches replaced with Dacron, a material that has been used reliably for a long time in heart repairs. I won’t go into the details of the agony she endured in the ensuing days, weeks and months, nor the mental anguish this has caused her for years.
But today we are celebrating Flo’s fifth anniversary. Flo has been doing an outstanding job of keeping her heart beating strongly and steadily, and for that we are extremely grateful. To celebrate, we’ll be going to Happy Hour with my daughter at a nearby sushi restaurant. We’ll also be celebrating my daughter’s life, courage and her will to live.