A Heart That Keeps On Thriving

A Heart That Keeps On Thriving
By: Courtney Marie Vendetti

The importance of heart health has impacted me greatly, especially within my family. My dad has had heart palpitations ever since he was in his twenties. About a year and a half ago, the night of my senior prom, my dad was rushed to the hospital because his palpitations increased. He has been on medication to help the palpitations since he was young, but was only required to take them when he felt it getting worse. This night however the medication was not working the way it normally should have. After prom was over my boyfriend’s parents had told me everything that happened. The next morning I went the hospital to go see my dad and after many tests that had been taken, we found out that one of his valves was leaking and eventually the doctors came to conclusion that my dad had to undergo open heart surgery. This was a shock to us all and was really the first time I saw my dad in complete vulnerability. His surgery included the re-build of the mitro-valve on the left side of the heart. The procedure that was done on him was new and called the Maze Procedure. This procedure has to be monitored every four months to make sure the bands and procedure used to stop the value from leaking holds as it is effective in only 60-75 percent of the patients. Thankfully, because my dad was healthy, he was a good candidate for it. With this procedure the valve did not have to be replaced. As of now, my dad has three rings that hold the valve in place and it allows the blood from his arteries to flow freely to his heart.

I went to the doctor’s office with my dad plenty of times before the surgery and went with him to the final evaluation with the doctor before the surgery had to take place. The day of the surgery was very nerve racking. My older sister and I stayed in the hospital all day waiting to see if everything went as planned. Finally, it was over. My dad was okay and the surgery worked. The recovery process was not easy and seeing my dad in the ICU was one of the hardest things that I have experienced. I spent the summer after my senior year taking him to doctors’ appointments, making food, helping him get his strength back, etc. I had to drive him to see the doctor for follow-up visits. During these visits, there were lab tests, such as blood tests, echocardiograms, and x-rays or electrocardiograms, to make sure he was healing properly. My dad also had to take anti-coagulants, for the first 4 months and had to have regular blood tests to monitor the dosage. Most importantly he had to make sure that he took his medications exactly as prescribed by the doctor. Additionally he had to take his blood pressure every 4 hours and check his weight each day, as there was a concern that he could retain too much water. For the first four months the doctor determined which activities were safe for him and which foods and habits to avoid. He could not drive or walk up and down stairs and did not start exercising/ walking around the block with me about two times a day, until the second month of recovery. It took a very long time for him to recovery completely and begin doing cardio and going to the gym every day, which was something that he missed very much. He was able to travel in the fourth month, but had to get the destinations approved by his cardiologist as some locations may harbor bacteria and other microbes that could be dangerous for the procedure. Also, the doctor is required to register the valve device. My dad has an identification card that can tell other people that he has an implanted device.

Although my dad’s scare still shows he wears it proudly every day and it is a representation that he survived. Through this experience my dad and our family have realized how important heart health is. To stay heart healthy and maintain a holistic wellbeing my dad, as before, goes to the gym every day and has begun eating healthier. Conclusively, my family has been encouraged and motivated to do the same. Some things that we have done in our household include; cutting back on the amount of salty, greasy, and sweet foods that we have in our house.

In regards to other medical needs, anytime my dad has any dental or other medical procedures done he has to per medicate. He has to take antibiotics before getting dental work or even routine cleanings. This is because bacteria can be dislodged from your teeth and travel to the heart valve, causing an infection. He cannot exercise as hard as he would like, as sometimes he gets overtired and the irregular murmur he has sometimes makes him dizzy. However, he still does try to ride the stationary bike for 45 minutes each day. Currently he takes a blood pressure medication. My dad still has complication with his heart now and the murmur will always be with him, but by increasing his hearth health and improving our lifestyle my dad has been thriving ever since.