Facing Open Heart Surgery with Confidence

Craig_FalkenthalBy Craig Falkenthal

Knowing my family history with heart disease allowed me to take control of my health. At my annual physical two years ago, I told my doctor about my 81-year-old mother’s recent aortic valve replacement. I explained that she had a congenital aortic bicuspid valve, and I have aunts and uncles who had mitral valve prolapse issues. I already knew I had a heart murmur, but my doctor suggested that I see a cardiologist to rule out any additional issues, given my family history.

I am an extremely healthy guy with a lot of energy. I had worked for the same employer for 23 years and never took a sick day. So I wasn’t too worried about getting checked out.

However, an echocardiogram showed that I had a congenital bicuspid aortic valve, just like my mother. It was a complete shock, especially because I felt terrific. My local cardiologist said that mine had progressed into aortic stenosis, where my aortic valve was not fully opening and was decreasing blood flow from my heart. She told me that open heart surgery was a matter of when not if.

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Mom and Dad: Resilient Son ‘Continues to Amaze Us’

By T.C. and Jennifer Coover

It is because of the doctors, nurses and staff at Rush that our son, Tanner, is alive.

Our story begins on Sept. 24, 2009. We scheduled our 20-week ultrasound with the doctors at Women’s Health Consultants based on a recommendation. It was that day that our son was diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, which meant that the lower left chamber of Tanner’s heart had never formed.

We were devastated, but we were quickly escorted upstairs to the seventh floor to meet Dr. Sawsan Awad in the Rush Center for Congenital and Structural Heart Disease. She took the time to explain the heart defect and its implications. We learned of the three surgeries Tanner would require and reassurance that we were in good hands. We went home exhausted, worried, sad, but optimistic our son would be fine in the hands of the Rush doctors.

Over the course of the next few months, we had several appointments for ultrasounds, echocardiograms and checkups. We were kept well informed on Tanner’s progress and our options. Our questions were encouraged and welcomed, and we were thankful for the open lines of communication we experienced. Continue reading