Friday, September 23, 2011

a mechanical or a pig heart

Yesterday R and I met with a cardiac surgeon to discuss my heart. The aortic and mitral valves need to be replaced. These are the intake and output valves on the engine. I know the actual anatomical working isn't  that simplistic, but visualizing it like this helps me understand what’s going on in a way that the words atrium and diastolic don’t.

I  knew that I needed the valves replaced before seeing the surgeon so I wasn’t knocked off my chair by the news. We met with him to discuss options. Namely, what to replace my currently dysfunctional valves with: a tissue (pig) valve or a mechanical valve.

The advantage of the tissue valve is that it mimics the human valve best. When a tissue valve starts to degenerate, the process is gradual. I would get short of breath, etc. I would have all the symptoms I’m experiencing now and know that it was time to have surgery again.

That’s the disadvantage of a tissue valve. I would need to have my chest sawn open again in less than ten years. I’ve already had this done once. I’m not looking forward to having it done again. I don’t know that I’m up for a third date.

However, a tissue valve would be the best bet for a woman who still intended to have babies, which is not my case. That the doctor even mentioned babies was sort of cute.

The mechanical valve unfortunately looks like something that belongs in a gasoline-operated lawnmower. I admit I’m not mechanically inclined. Two plastic flippy lids that open and shut inside a ring don’t instil me with confidence. And I should get two of these in my heart? I don’t know.

In order to keep a mechanical valve functioning, I’ll have to take a blood thinner which will turn me into a walking bruise. Believe me, at the rate that I walk into doorframes and trip, it will. Not that a bruise would kill me. But a hemorrhage could.

The advantage of a mechanical valve is that it doesn’t deteriorate. I wouldn’t need surgery again. At least not to replace the valves. If a mechanical valve stops opening and shutting, there’s no time to do surgery again. From one minute to the next, the heart stops. The doctor assured me that was a rare case scenario. I was the one who brought it up, not him.

Basically, my decision will be between living with anti-coagulants or looking forward to another heart surgery. Assuming that I live another 10 years and that this surgery goes well. Knock on wood.

1 comment:

  1. Whoah Alice. Those are some choices you have there. Thinking of you.