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Aortic Disease

Looking Ahead After Heart Surgery

Andrew C. knows a little bit about heart care. After having two valve replacements in 1982 and 1999, he is very attuned to symptoms that may indicate a problem. That's why, when he was experiencing shortness of breath in early 2019, he went to a hospital in his neighborhood for help. While they didn't find anything wrong, a visit to his cardiologist proved otherwise.

"The cardiologist said I had a severe problem with my heart valves and needed catheterization immediately and that I might even need open heart surgery," he says. "I was pretty scared, but a friend suggested I get a second opinion at Einstein. I'm glad I did!"

The tissue around both of Andrew's heart valves had become infected and his valves had developed holes. This prevented his heart from circulating blood through his body and also weakened his heart, which caused his shortness of breath.

"Dr. Christian Witzke did a procedure to plug the holes in my valves, and I also had a defibrillator implanted," Andrew says. "I started feeling better in every way. It turns out, that procedure helped strengthen my heart for the next surgery, which I needed because the hole in my mitral valve wouldn't stay plugged."

Andrew learned that Einstein offers a specialized Commando procedure to address those challenges.

Andrew’s surgeon for the Commando procedure was Dr. Alexandra Tuluca, one of the few surgeons in the entire region with specific training in aortic conditions and complex valve surgery.

"Dr. Tuluca did a really good job. I wasn't sure what my chances would be because of the severity of my heart condition, but I trusted her expertise," Andrew says.

Andrew's next step is cardiac rehab - something he is looking forward to with confidence. "Right now, I do feel a lot better but I am cautious about how I move around," he says. "I look back at last year when I was sick for the entire year. Now I am looking ahead to gaining strength and having a better year."

While he wishes he had never had heart problems in the first place, Andrew is glad he chose to go to Einstein. "With both my experiences at Einstein, I was helped by so many people. The Einstein doctors caught my problem and came up with a solution that worked for me. I am very grateful," he says.

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