Neil and his doctor decided he would have a mechanical mitral valve replacement because he did not want to have another surgery to replace a tissue valve.
Sailing has been Neil’s passion since he was a boy. He learned to sail at the age of nine and has taken his sailing passion from that twelve-foot dingy to yachts in Hawaii, the Virgin Islands and in the Pacific near his home in San Diego. But even at the young age of nine he’d been diagnosed with a heart murmur for more than half his life.
Neil was born with a love of the sea, the waves, the wind and a deformed mitral valve in addition to a ventricular septal defect. Doctors would ask his parents if they knew he had a heart murmur every year, and each time the doctor said he might just grow out of it. Neil grew into being a husband, father of two beautiful daughters, a career in computer engineering, but he did not grow out of his heart murmur.
An ambulance ride to the emergency room when Neil was thirty-five confirmed an infection (myocarditis), heart arrythmia, and weakened heart muscle due to his valve problem; impacted mitral leaflets and chords. Since this part of his mitral valve was malformed, his heart problems were not completely visible in his heart imaging, so doctors did not fully grasp the degree of his valve issues. He continued to be active, running 5 and 10k road races and was training for a 1/2 marathon.
In 2019, Neil couldn’t catch his breath while running and decided to see his cardiologist. This time, the imaging showed not only valve issues, but also revealed reduced ejection fraction (the pumping ability of his heart), valve regurgitation (blood flowing backwards) and 4 blocked arteries. He would require surgery. His doctors were hoping they could repair his mitral valve but advised him to consider his options if a replacement was necessary.
He researched valve replacement options which included both mechanical and tissue valve options. Neil and his doctor decided he would have a mechanical mitral valve replacement because he did not want to have another surgery to replace a tissue valve that could eventually fail due to his younger age. He also has learned that tissue valve replacement patients had a shorter lifespan than patients with mechanical valve replacements.
Neil was not worried about taking warfarin, a blood thinner, which is required with a mechanical valve. He considered the INR management (which is necessary with a blood thinner) no big deal because he was diabetic and accustomed to monitoring his blood.
Neil told his surgeon he would choose to have a mechanical valve if replacement were necessary. His surgeon agreed and recommended an On-X Mitral Heart Valve. In September 2019, age 49, he had his surgery in San Diego, California. His surgery included a quadruple bypass, Ventricular Septal Defect Surgery (VSD) repair with a bovine patch, and mitral valve replacement with an On-X mechanical Mitral Heart Valve.
Today, Neil feels great. He loves his new valve. He takes warfarin and has no problems managing his INR. He doesn’t have any trouble managing his diet. Neil continues working in his career and has also returned to his active lifestyle. He still loves to sail in the Caribbean as well as back and forth between San Diego and Mexico. He also cherishes outdoor time with his family and friends. He feels great and considers himself to be On-X Mitral Heart Valve replacement survivor.
Written Mitral Valve Recipient Patient Story: Neil Alan