Valerie Gabriel’s Heart Valve Story

Published On: 12 December 2018Categories: Aortic Valve, Patient Stories

Valerie simply thought she was going in for routine knee surgery. However, when she attended her pre-op she found out that there may be more than she originally bargained for when it was recommended she go for a cardiogram. Not long after, in 2014 Val was diagnosed with heart valve disease.

Before she was scheduled for knee surgery, Val had considered her life quite normal for someone in her early 70’s. She had always managed to stay fairly fit and felt quite happy with the way things were going. She did however sometimes find herself feeling breathless during her usual activities, but she simply assumed that it was all a part of getting older.

When she was scheduled for a knee surgery in 2014, Val went in for the standard pre-op exam. It was during this exam, that her nurse noticed there was something not quite right with her stethoscope check. She explained to Val that she was noticing a slight murmur in her heart: “It’s not usually anything to worry about but we will send you for a echocardiogram” she told Val. Val noticed that the nurse had become quiet at this point and when Val questioned if she was ok, she was told that her results would be sent to her surgeon for review.

Now quite concerned, Val was admitted for her knee surgery only to be later told there were too many risks involved in the surgery on her knees and that they would no longer be doing it at that time. The reason, they told her, was that she had been diagnosed with severe aortic stenosis, or a leaky valve. It was explained that having such a condition could turn a routine knee surgery, into an extremely risky and life threatening operation.

Not wanting to waste any more time, Val paid a visit to the local heart surgeon and luckily saw him straight away as he was only available for appointments every six weeks. He was eager to get Val in for treatment for her valve disease and arranged for her valve operation not long after her visit with him.

In November 2014 at the age of 74, Val went in for her life changing valve treatment. Thankfully everything went well and she has made a full recovery. After her treatment when she went in for a regular doctor’s appointment, her GP was surprised that Val had never come to see her for her symptoms of breathlessness and chest pains. Something that in reflection could have caught her valve disease much sooner.

While it would have been wise for Val to see her GP when her symptoms first began, Val believes it may also have been helpful if there was a simple stethoscope check along with the checks for things like blood pressure and cholesterol. This is why Val is sharing her story and why she feels it is important that patients speak up and ask for routine stethoscope exams.

On a final note, Val did finally have her knees operated on the year following her valve disease treatment and it was a great success. If it hadn’t been for her knees acting up and the awareness of her pre-op nurse she may not have been here to tell her story.

Here’s to many more years of putting those new knees to good use!

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