Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the day “February 3, 2023”

Get The Picture?

Do you remember the television commercial that tried to demonstrate the use of drugs and the effect on your brain? You know the one, with the egg and the frying pan. The egg represented the brain, and once cooked, that was the brain “on drugs.” I am going to demonstrate a different situation, using a similar method, but without eggs as they are too expensive to waste.

As I have often mentioned, I had my aortic valve replace, actually, that is not a correct way to state that.

I had an artificial aortic valve (replica pictured in my hand) inserted into my defective aortic valve. The reason that this needed to be done? Exposure to a ridiculously high amount of ionized radiation to treat my Hodgkin’s Lymphoma decades ago, caused progressive damage to various areas of my heart, the aortic valve included. Let me tell you how important that aortic valve is to the heart, besides the simple fact that it plays a major role in blood flow through the heart. But have a problem with the aortic valve, and you can be lucky to walk ten feet without being winded, gasping for air.

I unfortunately do not have a picture of what my aortic valve looked like prior to the surgery. I have some very cool looking scan photos that make absolutely no sense to me, with all kinds of notations how bad it was, but I cannot tell what I am even looking at. But it was bad. So, let me show you a different picture.

This is a severely damaged aortic valve. This came from a Zoom session that I just participated in, on aortic valve surgery presented by Penn Medicine and . In this particular photo, the aortic valve has damage from Rheumatic fever. If you are unfamiliar with Rheumatic fever, it is something that can develop fighting an infection, such as Strep Throat. I am pretty sure you have heard of that before, and how contagious it is. If you are the person with this pictured aortic valve, I am pretty sure life is not fun at this point, especially trying to breathe.

When I heard this explained during this session, I immediately flashed back in my memory, back before I became aware of all of my health issues, my only concern was that not having a spleen, I was extra susceptible to catching things, like the flu, pneumonia, strep throat, and that these things could kill me. But one incident, a co-worker came to work, with Strep throat. She bragged about having the highly contagious infection. When I informed my supervisor “either she goes home or I go home,” I, the healthy one, was the one who ended up going home.

Though I honestly thought it was from the sickness itself that would kill me, turns out, that is not the only risk. The damage that an infection inflicts on the heart is shocking. Because we do not really think about it. We get sick. We take some medicine. We move on. But all the while, over the years, damage to the heart occurs with each infection.

One other thing that I learned during the Zoom, was the dangers of infections on the replacement valves, seemingly more susceptible to the effects of the infections.

So what inspired this post today? Covid-19. We are at a point, where even the government is ready to surrender, remove the amount of attention to precautions and care, and just accept that Covid-19 is here to stay. And just like other diseases, will still have the ability to kill patients, just in a larger number.

But the fact is, Covid-19 wreaks much more havoc on the heart. My cardiologist, who I consider one of the best, did not mince words. “Covid-19 will kill you,” referring specifically to me. Now, it may have seemed like hyperbole by some at the time, just trying to scare me, but I never doubted by doctor’s sincerity. After all, he has boldly gone where no man had gone before (okay, a couple of other times before – a double bypass and a stent).

After seeing the photo slide of the damaged aortic valve from Rheumatic fever, and the listing of other infections, I am now totally convinced my cardiologist is correct in his warning.

I want to be clear. I am not living in fear. I am doing everything I want to do, yes, while wearing a mask and avoiding crowds. I have issues maintaining coverage from the vaccine, so as I wait for my next dose (I have gotten all of them), at this point, I am considered unvaccinated. But the reality is this. Covid-19 is still around, a lot, and is still killing people, so far, two people I knew this year alone.

Clearly, it is not just Covid-19 that needs to be avoided for the sake of the heart. If the picture of the damaged valve is any indication, we all really need to do better at avoiding getting sick in the first place, from any infection.

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