Playing Like a Champion with the On-X Heart Valve
Ron Stuart loves golf. In fact, he says, “it probably can be said that I play golf more than I should, but not as much as I want to. I probably would be more profitable in my work if I didn't play as much golf.”
In 2014, at age 60, Ron became the oldest qualifier in the Utah State Amateur Golf Tournament, and the next year, became the club champion at his home course.
“It’s fun to beat up on my younger players who are sometimes 30 to 40 years younger than me,” Ron said.
Ron, who is a businessman from Ogden, Utah, was originally diagnosed with aortic stenosis when he was 13 years old. This meant that his aortic heart valve did not open all the way, restricting the forward flow of blood. Through his high school years and beyond – well into his 30s and 40s – he was very athletic and competed in a number of different sports, feeling little to no effects of his aortic stenosis. In fact, it was more than 40 years after his initial diagnosis that his doctor told him that he would need heart valve replacement surgery. In March of 2010, Ron received an On-X Aortic Heart Valve.
Choosing the Right Valve – Being Your Own Advocate
When it came to selecting the type of heart valve for his valve replacement surgery, Ron did his homework. In addition to consulting his doctors, he also did research on his own, and ultimately chose to become an On-X heart valve recipient.
“Being an advocate for yourself, I think is important because not only do you have the information, but it allows for discussion between health care professionals. […] My questions and my research led them to be able to give me better information in regards to the valve replacement.”
Ron was determined to learn as much as possible about the type of valve that would be best for him and his active lifestyle.
Ron learned from his cardiologist that he could either receive a tissue valve or a mechanical valve. Tissue valves have a tendency to wear out and require another operation, whereas a mechanical has a likelihood of lasting a lifetime.
In addition to consulting with his cardiologist, he did a lot of research on his own, mostly on the internet, searching websites and reading studies on tissue and mechanical heart valves. In his research, Ron came across the On-X Aortic Valve and the characteristics that set it apart from other mechanical heart valves. He then brought this information to his cardiologist and cardiac surgeon in order to ask them about the On-X Aortic Heart Valve advantages over other mechanical aortic valves.
“Those searches led me to the On-X Heart Valve and gave me a great deal of peace and recognizing that this was a heart valve that would probably work the very best for me; and hence, the reason that I asked specifically for the On-X Heart Valve.”
“When making the choice between a tissue and a mechanical valve, obviously I was lucky enough that I had time to do the research,” he said. “In my case, I'm convinced that the use of the On-X Valve was a major upgrade and has made my life a lot simpler since that procedure.”
Blood Thinner, No Big Deal
Through his research, Ron also was aware that he would probably need to take blood thinners for the rest of his life, but he was fine with this tradeoff, and hasn’t found it difficult to incorporate into his daily routine.
“I know that some people have issues with regards to diet and what effect that will have upon their [blood thinner levels],” Ron said. “In my case, that has not been a problem. Luckily for me, my diet is relatively good; I eat just about whatever I want. Obviously I'm concerned about some foods that are high in Vitamin K, and limit those, but it's just not a problem as long as your diet is regular. It has not proven to be any kind of an issue for me, and I just don't think that is an issue that someone can be overly concerned about.”
“On-X… has enabled me to live a life as full as I want”
Ron said his main concern after valve replacement was that he would be limited in the types of activities he could engage in, including spending time with his grandchildren.
“I was smart enough to marry a really smart woman who was beautiful, I have four beautiful children, I have 12 even more beautiful grandchildren, and I do everything I want to with them,” he said. “They are at our house at least once a week, and we have lots of fun together. We play football, we play basketball, we do whatever is needed, and I don't have any issues. I'm able to do what I want to, when I want to do it.”
Ron was, of course, also concerned that his golf game would be affected after heart valve replacement surgery.
“I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to play quite as much golf as I wanted to, or that there might be issues, but less than 30 days after my surgery, I was able to play. I shot 75 in my first round afterwards. Six months after surgery, I've done anything I've wanted to,” he added. “I've hiked, I've skied, I've moved snow, I've worked in my garden – I have a large garden. I grow pumpkins, and I grow tomatoes and peppers and anything that I want. It keeps me pretty busy.”
“Having an On-X Heart Valve has enabled me to live a life as full as I want – to do anything that I want to, and I'm grateful for good people that have helped to develop this and to make certain that it works as well as it does, and that's kind of my story.” NOTE: This story reflects one person’s experience. Talk to your doctor about your situation and possible treatment options.