TotalHeart Team Answers Prayers

April 30, 2014

Susan, Cardiac Surgery Patient

After suffering from rheumatic fever as a child, Susan knew she might encounter heart problems down the road. Later on, she discovered that the disease had left her with some damage to her aortic valve.

After discovering this, Susan was put under the care of William Nitzberg, MD, cardiologist at Memorial Cardiac and Vascular Institute. Dr. Nitzberg has been working with Susan for a number of years.

According to Michael Cortelli, MD, chief of adult cardiac surgery, patients who have had rheumatic fever need to be closely monitored, as it creates a chronic inflammation of the valves that can present more severe valve problems to patients 20, 30 even 40 years later.

Susan had begun to develop some complications, with symptoms of chest pain, shortness of breath with exertion and fatigue. Dr. Nitzberg and his team performed cardiac catheterization procedure to get a closer look at Susan's heart, and discovered Susan had aortic stenosis.

Aortic stenosis occurs when the heart's aortic valve narrows, restricting blood flow. To fix this, Susan would need to undergo surgery to have an aortic valve replacement. If this had gone untreated, Susan could have suffered a massive heart attack, possibly even a fatal one.

Dr. Nitzberg referred Susan to Dr. Cortelli to perform the surgery immediately. Susan was nervous about the surgery, but both doctors helped ease her anxieties, inviting her to call and ask questions whenever she had them, no matter the time.

Susan felt blessed that the surgery went well and that she had a great team around her.

"I could not have asked for a better team. My prayers were indeed answered. I prayed that I would be surrounded by a super team of doctors and nurses, and I had just that," said Susan.

Susan shared that the doctors, nurses and assistants were not only helpful and assuring to her, but her family as well. She says her family loves Dr. Cortelli, and credited both he and Dr. Nitzberg for their wonderful bedside manners. Susan felt continual support from the staff, from before surgery all the way through her time in cardiac rehabilitation. The team was able to answer her and her family's questions and make them feel comfortable.

Dr. Cortelli said it is extremely gratifying to him to be able to help his patients, and believes the entire Memorial staff feels the same.

"I think we all have that same sort of philosophy at Memorial," said Cortelli. "Everyone embraces that idea of patient- and family-centered care."

After her major surgery, Susan is seeing major results. She is living well with her new valve, enjoying walking and exercising frequently and being active with the children in her church, without facing any of the difficult symptoms she experienced before surgery.

"I have a new valve, and I am blessed to be back to the quality of life that I love," said Susan. "I am very grateful to the Memorial team for the excellent service and care they provided."

Susan looks forward to being able to participate in her family's lives going forward with her repaired heart. She has a child getting married and another starting high school.

The experts in TotalHeart Care at Memorial Cardiac and Vascular Institute were there to help Susan get her life back.

Rheumatic fever damaged Susan's aortic valve

Susan, Heart Patient
After rheumatic fever in Susan's childhood left her with a damaged aortic valve, Susan put her trust in the nationally ranked TotalHeart Team at Memorial Cardiac and Vascular Institute.