I live every day in terror of what I know
is coming! I am one of the approximately 2 percent to 9
percent of people over the age of 65 with aortic stenosis,
which is narrowing of the aortic valve opening. This valve
connects the left ventricle and the aorta. In my case, surgery
is required … at some point. Knowing that thousands of
aortic valve operations are performed each year in the
United States doesn’t relieve my terror the least bit.
I’m an anomaly in many ways. I’m past retirement
age but am as active as a 45-year-old: I walk five to
seven miles a day and participate in weekly Pilates and
yoga classes; I still work full time at Rivier University
in Nashua, New Hampshire; and a year ago I adopted an
energetic, 10-month-old Boxador (boxer/Lab mix) puppy.
I wish I had a tenth of her energy!
In June 2015, right before I adopted Shelby, I visited
my doctor to renew my thyroid medication for another
year. I happened to mention, “I know I’m getting older,
but I’m out of breath a lot.” Before I knew it, I was hooked
up to an EKG machine and suddenly staring at abnormal
Most people have tricuspid (three flaps) aortic valves,
but about 2 percent of the population are born with
bicuspid (two flaps) valves. I am one of those — an
anomaly. Though I knew of this congenital defect, I
honestly had not given it much thought over the years.
It had affected my activity level as a child, but it hadn’t
My aortic stenosis has progressed and now I’m facing
been an issue in adulthood. So the abnormal test results
came as a shock to me. I have a family history of heart
disease, but with the healthy lifestyle I have lived, I’ve
never given all this heart mumbo jumbo much thought,
except at annual physical time. Some doctors heard my
murmur, others did not.
aortic valve replacement surgery.
Slowly I am undergoing all of the tests necessary for
surgery: an EKG, two echoes, a stress test, two weeks of
event monitoring and an MRI. To complicate all of this, I
I felt as if a tank had run over me. On one level I was
Halftime in the
By Michaeline Della Fera, Survivor
Hollis, New Hampshire