As a teenager I discovered that I was born with Mitral Valve Prolapse (MVP), which had little impact on my life and I was told it didn’t require any ongoing monitoring. That was until years later when I was diagnosed with infective endocarditis, a rare and highly lethal bacterial infection of a heart valve.
I was misdiagnosed four times over the course of several days and watched my health rapidly deteriorate. My wife, who is a doctor, believed it was important to evaluate how having MVP was playing a role in my declining health. I received the proper diagnosis after my wife advocated for an echocardiogram of my heart, but by that time I was in full heart failure, which caused me to slip into a coma. I was put on life support and hospitalized for many weeks. I had never experienced any symptoms or issues related to MVP prior to this infection – it had been completely benign.
I was in ‘wait and see’ mode for a year as I hoped for conclusive MRIs every few months to determine if a repair could be performed or if a full valve replacement was needed. My mitral valve was badly damaged from my infection and this resulted in regurgitation, which put me at risk for heart failure or arrhythmia. However, heart valve repair eventually became a viable option and the treatment option I pursued.
I had a quick recovery and was only in the hospital for a couple of days after open heart surgery. It took many weeks for my chest to fully heal, but I was back at work about seven weeks post-operation. I have continued my previously active lifestyle after my surgery and, though my cardiologist recommended that I don’t run a marathon like I had always planned to do, I continue to exercise, golf, curl, and participate in many of the activities I used to.
This experience taught me how important early detection is when it comes to heart valve disease. I also learned how valuable it is to know the symptoms of heart valve disease, and to immediately seek care if anything begins to change or occur in your health.
Looking back, I should have associated my symptoms to my MVP earlier, and this is something I encourage everyone to keep in mind. If you have heart valve disease, it can contribute to medical situations even if it hasn’t caused issues before. It is important to regularly monitor your symptoms and seek care if you’re experiencing new, worsened, or changing ones. I want to share my experience so that other people may not have to go through the same thing that I did.
Heart valve disease is a treatable condition if diagnosed early.