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Aortic Disease

Putting His Confidence in His Surgeon’s Experience

Richard D.'s milestone 60th birthday just didn't feel right. For a man who typically has energy to spare, he wasn't used to tiring easily, being short of breath and feeling run-down. "I wondered if it was just because I turned 60, or something else," he says.

A trip to his general practitioner showed that “something else” was a heart murmur, and a referral to a cardiologist resulted in a diagnosis of a rare valve condition.

"One of the cusps of my aortic valve was stuck open," Richard explains. "I didn't know any heart surgeons, so I asked my cardiologist to refer me to the best heart surgeon she knew. She sent me to Dr. Raymond Singer at Einstein."

Richard likes to stay informed, so he did some research to learn more about Dr. Singer. "I was highly impressed to find out he had done more than 7,200 heart surgeries," says Richard. "I knew I was in good hands."

Pre-surgery testing included an esophageal echocardiogram to better understand the valve problem and a cardiac catheterization to evaluate Richard's heart function. The testing showed more damage than originally thought. One of Richard's coronary arteries was 75% blocked and his mitral valve - which allows blood to flow between heart chambers - was also damaged.

"Dr. Singer met with me and my wife to discuss what the tests showed," says Richard. "I asked how long I had before things would start to fall apart, and he told me a year. I said, 'Let's schedule surgery!'"

Richard's five-hour surgery at Einstein Medical Center Montgomery corrected all of his heart issues, and he spent six days in the cardiac intensive care unit. "By the third day, I was up walking around and started physical therapy," he says.

Once discharged, Richard had physical therapy at home and visits from a visiting nurse. Then he started cardiac rehab. "The support after surgery was amazing," he says. "All that help added to my recovery and I am just ecstatic."

It's typical for patients like Richard to take a year before they are back to feeling like themselves. "I still have some healing to do, but I feel 100% better today than I did before surgery," he says.

While reflecting about his journey to better heart health, Richard feels blessed that things didn't take a turn for the worse. "I didn't have to face this as an emergency situation because I listened to my body," he says. "Still, it can be scary to get the news that I did. But I have a lot to live for and that made the decision about surgery easier."

While still on the mend, Richard is looking forward to getting back to work and back to enjoying his four children and four grandchildren.

"I can't say 'thank you' enough to Dr. Singer and the staff at Einstein," says Richard. "I owe these people my life."

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