Debra, a longtime New Yorker, was enjoying her winter trip to Florida—walking daily and biking or swimming regularly—when her stamina started to diminish. It got to the point where she couldn’t walk up the stairs or sleep on her back without experiencing extreme shortness of breath. Gardening, which as a retired landscape designer is her passion, became impossible because of the stress it put on her heart.
A visit to her Florida cardiologist confirmed that the heart valve disease that she had been diagnosed with more than 10 years ago had progressed. The valves were not closing properly, forcing her heart to work harder to move blood through the body and putting her at risk of heart failure. The treatment she needed was multifaceted and complex. Her cardiac surgeon in Florida told her that surgery was too great a risk, due to her overall health.
“One day I was walking, the next day I couldn’t walk around the block. The next day I couldn’t get up the stairs,” Debra says. “I was scared.”
Unsatisfied with the cardiac surgeon’s determination, Debra called William J. Cole, MD, her longtime NYU Langone cardiologist. It was immediately apparent to him, based on the seriousness of Debra’s condition and his long-term experience as her doctor, that something more needed to be done. He referred Debra to Aubrey C. Galloway, MD, director of NYU Langone’s Mitral Valve Repair Program, who specializes in complex heart valve repair and replacement surgery. Dr. Galloway agreed with Dr. Cole, and recommended that Debra come to NYU Langone for treatment.
“I have every reason to believe I’m going to be better than I was 10 years ago, and I’m up for it.”—Debra, Age 68
Within days, Debra and her husband were on the road, driving from Florida to New York for lifesaving heart valve surgery. Dr. Galloway performed a mitral valve replacement, tricuspid valve repair, and a procedure to treat irregular heartbeat caused by atrial fibrillation. A week after the surgery, Debra left the hospital, her symptoms greatly improved. Within a few months, she was swimming and walking regularly, and—best of all—back to working in the garden.
“It was a nice feeling to have the trust in my doctors to say ‘If anybody can do it, you guys can,’” Debra says. “And they got it done.”