Hiking the Trails with his On-X Valve
Jack Reed has been active his entire life, and is always up for a challenge. At age 70, he continues to enjoy the wide variety of physical activities he has participated in throughout his life, thanks in part to the On-X Aortic Valve he received over 12 years ago.
“I'll do almost anything physical especially when I've got people to do it with,” Jack says. “I love to go body surfing in the ocean. That's probably my favorite thing to do in the world, but I'll do anything; I play tennis, I play basketball. You name it, I'm up for it.”
Living in Santa Barbara, California, Jack also takes full advantage of the great hiking locations in the nearby hills and mountains.
“Well, my favorite hiking [spot] would be a place called the Seven Falls where there's an awesome pool at the very top [that] is deeper than it is wide. [You can] jump off the rocks and go over the overhang [into the pool] - it looks kind of scary to do it, when you jump out and land in this pool, but it's very cool.”
The only thing standing in his way over the years was a diagnosis he received back in 1968, when he was having an appendectomy.
“In the course of doing all of the analysis they discovered that I have an enlarged heart,” he said. “The cardiologist came in and said that it was so enlarged that I won't be able to exercise for the rest of my life. I was told that at 21 years old.”
Jack was never symptomatic, and his doctors monitored his heart in checkups over the years, until one routine visit when his doctor advised him to see a cardiologist.
“On and off over the years the doctors would listen and some would say, ‘yes, there's a heart murmur happening there.’ Another doctor would listen and say, ‘no, I really don't hear much.’ It wasn't until 1997 which would have been 29 years later that I was having a routine physical and the doctor said, ‘Well, I can hear something there. You better go see a cardiologist.’
“Six months before that, I had just done a hike at [Mount] San Jacinto out of Palm Springs, [California], the hardest one day hike in the United States,” he said.
Even though he thought he was at the peak of health, he was now at a point where he required heart surgery to replace his aortic valve. Jack went into surgery soon after and received a porcine (pig) valve.
“They told me the pig valve would last from 8 to 16 years. The whole experience had been such a nightmare for me that it's like, OK, my intention is I am a healthy person – I'm going to make
this thing last forever, and not ever have to go through this again. It didn't even last eight years.”
In September 2005, he was playing basketball and later began having pains that “felt like one of my ribs was out of place.” Jack didn’t realize at the time that his replacement tissue valve was failing. He consulted with a doctor who told him he was in severe heart failure. He then went to a cardiologist who told him ‘if you don't do something by the end of October 2005 you're going to be dead.’
The cardiologist suggested ‘if you’re going to have a mechanical valve, insist on an On-X Valve.’ Several days later, he was at UCLA for surgery, receiving his On-X Aortic Valve to replace the failing porcine valve.
This time, with the On-X Valve, Jack said his recovery was completely opposite from the experience with his first heart valve surgery.
“After the On-X Valve was put in, the recovery from that was so much easier and faster, and so that was the difference,” he said. “The whole situation was just a total healing; not just physically but mentally and emotionally.”
For others facing heart valve surgery, Jack recommends doing your research and being your own advocate.
“When one's health and wellbeing is on the line, do the research because this is going to affect a person for the rest of their life, he said.
Jack is an advocate for staying healthy, and continues to participate in activities he has enjoyed his entire life.
“I believe in exercise. I go out walking virtually every day for at least two, three, four, or five miles because that's part of the routine to stay healthy,” he said.
“I have had this valve for… about 12 and a half years. What it means is it's just part of me now. I wanted this to be the last one. I'm pretty sure I've got something that's the last one, and that it's not going to have any effect whatsoever on my longevity.
“It's like that On-X Valve is now just part of my heart. I don't see any difference between now and all those years when I didn't have it.”