Getting my heart rocks ready to roll

We collected heart rocks all up and down the Maine coast the summer of 2020. Knowing I was soon facing a mitral valve repair, it seemed the thing to do. By the end of the summer we had quite a collection and I decided to gift them along with a poem I wrote to the medical folks who helped me. I gave the unusual one photographed above to Miki my friend, neighbor, and PCP. It was she who told me just over a year ago that my heart sounded “different”, and launched me on a journey to safety.

If you are reading this blog, then I am getting pretty close to leaving for Boston to have open heart surgery for a repair of my mitral valve on November 11. Because you are a friend, and have asked to be kept apprised, you are invited to check in whenever you wish. I will be writing about the experience until they wheel me away and I cannot. At that point, either Glen or our daughter Katie will post about my progress. Once I am able, I will post again. Why a blog? Surgery like this is a big deal, and can be a tad overwhelming, consequently we may not be able to keep everyone as up to date as we would like. A friend suggested a blog, would help all concerned, so we launched one. Besides, I was helped enormously by reading the blog of a woman who had the same surgery in 2016. Perhaps this blog will help another.

So you wonder, why then on earth does she mean by “Skye Adventures? Well, Plan A for this fall and winter was to sail down the east coast in our sailboat Skye. It has long been Glen’s and my dream, and we started preparing in 2016 by purchasing a sailboat that we could live on for long periods of time. The targeted adventure launch was to be September 2020 when we would head south down the inland waterway ultimately to Florida and perhaps the Bahamas. As a young child, I loved hearing Diana Shore singing “See the USA in your Chevrolet!” She conjured up such wonderful images of adventure for me! Well, Glen and I decided after a lifetime of hard work in our respective professions, we would do something similar and sail down the coast exploring historic ports, enchanted islands and pretty little coastal villages. About the time we had the first freeze in Bangor, we would have been south of the frostline which is Charleston SC. Obviously, those plans are on hold, but stay tuned for September 2021, because then (COVID permitting) we plan to regale you with our true Skye-Adventures. For now, we will take you down one of those side roads, and this one, getting my heart fixed, has had a few bumps along the way.

What I am having done is a repair of my mitral valve. Mine leaks, and has so done at least since I was in my 20’s in law school when it was discovered. This leak or heart murmur is called a mitral valve prolapse (MVP) and it is not uncommon. Most people with MVP float through life without any issues. Then there are some folks whose MVP progresses to MVR or mitral valve regurgitation. This is when things really go awry and a more significant amount of blood starts to flow back, stretching out the atrium, then the ventricle ultimately flowing back into the lungs violating all of the one way street rules of the heart. After a few years, the heart stretches out too much, and the aortic and tricuspid valves gets damaged as well. Since playing ostrich will only lead to congestive heart failure, sooner or later it must be fixed. So, I decided for me, the time is now while I am is pretty good shape and only need a mitral and some tricuspid valve repair. Fortunately, surgery will help me, and I have a good shot at a normal life after I recover. Unfortunately, my mitral repair is “complicated” and I might have to have a replacement with a porcine valve. If that happens, I want everyone to know right now that I will be the ONLY one allowed to make Miss Piggy jokes. Seriously, I am hoping for a repair with my own body parts, but I want it to be a durable repair so I am trusting my surgeon to make the best choices for me once he sees the situation.

I am going to Brigham and Women’s in Boston and my surgeon is Dr. Tsuyoshi Kaneko. He is highly skilled, honest, respectful, and nice. Dr. Kaneko was happy to rely on the “excellent testing done at Northern Light” and was happy to meet initially via zoom given the COVID times. I will meet him in the flesh for the first time on Tuesday afternoon the day before my surgery.


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