P.J. Brien’s Heart Valve Disease Story

Published On: 14 December 2018Categories: Aortic Valve, Open Heart Surgery, Patient Stories, Tissue Valve

P.J. (Patrick) Brien, didn’t think he had anything wrong with his heart, after all, he had no red flag symptoms like tiredness, dizziness or chest pains. However with a family history of heart problems and some breathlessness that he put down to the dusty conditions at work. P.J.’s wife suspected something was wrong. Her caution was warranted and most likely saved his life as it was later determined that his aortic valve would need replacing.

In 2005 at the age of 62, P.J. had no idea that there was an issue with his heart. A slight dryness in his throat and some breathlessness were the only ‘symptoms’ that he experienced before his heart valve disease diagnosis.At the time he was driving cranes and heavy equipment, and put the dryness down to dust from the work sites he worked on. When he mentioned this, and being just “very slightly” out of breath when walking uphill, to his wife, she insisted that he made an appointment with his G.P.

“I was sure it was something to do with my lungs and breathing, but when the G.P. listened to my chest and back with her stethoscope, she picked up an slight murmur and wanted to check that out instead. It was a shock, especially as four close relatives on my father’s side had all died of heart attacks.”

He was referred to a cardiologist for further tests. These revealed that a “kink” in his aortic valve was preventing it from working properly and that treatment would require surgery.

“I asked my consultant, Mr Rooney, what my chances were without surgery and he said unless I had a replacement valve I’d most likely have a heart attack within two years. I agreed to surgery on the spot. It looked as though my wife really may have saved my life.”

P.J. spent nine days in Birmingham’s old Queen Elizabeth Hospital and by all accounts was a model pain-free patient. His recovery continued to be straight forward at home, but due to the extreme physical nature of his work he took twelve months off. When he regained his full strength, he joined a walking club,

All that was more than a decade ago and P.J. is busier than ever keeping up with four grandchildren, and fitting in three or four good, fast walks every week.

Quite recently, Dr Rick Steeds, Consultant Cardiologist, who check up on P.J.’s heart at the new Q E hospital, sent the 75 year old for updated MRI and CT scans to determine whether the thirteen year old replacement tissue valve was still working well for P.J. As is often the case with most valve replacements that aren’t mechanical valves, patients need to be monitored closely near the 10 year mark in case the valve needs replacing.

“Mr Brien’s scans show that the replacement valve is still doing well and as he managed a pretty strenuous treadmill test without difficulty there is no cause for immediate concern and he can continue his regular six-month surveillance. He keeps himself in very good health which is the best preparation for any future treatment, should it be necessary,” said Dr Steeds.

We wish P.J. continued good health and many more happy years with his lovely wife.

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