Dacron Hemashield At 22
29 January 1999
In July of 1994, I was diagnosed as having a valve disorder. I was told that I would probably have to have checkups every 6 months. I continued to do so and was told that it was getting worse but would probably be okay for a while.
Then in October of 1996 I went to my doctor and he referred to a heart surgeon. I had just lost my Grandmother to diabetes and cancer. I had also lost 3 other relatives to cancer and advanced age. When I went to the heart surgeon; I was told that I would have to have surgery soon. At that time, I was 22, in college full-time and working full-time. I was going to begin student teaching that next January. It wasn't exactly the best time, but things seldom happen during convenient times. I scheduled the surgery for December 17th, during the Christmas break.
The surgery was going to be to reconstruct my valve originally, but we found that it might be more complicated. I lived near Evansville, Indiana and had to fly with my family to Missoula, Montana! We flew out on the 15th of December.
The hospital, St. Patrick's, was wonderful. My surgeons, Carlos Duran and James Oury, were also wonderful. They were able to do the surgery and save my life. My ascending aorta had dissected and thinned out to the thickness of tissue paper; I was very lucky. I still have my valve, but I had to have my ascending aorta replaced by a Dacron Hemashield (it resembles a vacuum hose). My incision was placed under my breasts-saving my cleavage-which was important to me.
I hadn't anytime to deal with what was going to be happening to me or the deaths of my relatives. I even worked full-time and went to school until the day before we left for the surgery. When we arrived at the hospital in Montana, I went crazy. I was not happy and everyone in the entire hospital knew it. (I have since apologized and thanked them.) I hadn't counted on the surgery hitting me so hard.
I came back after Christmas and was back to school and student teaching less than a month later. I knew it was crazy but I had to get on with things. I know now that this was a mistake. I didn't think or deal with any of my losses or what happened to my body.
I thought I was fine, I graduated and went back to work full-time. I also began taking classes to teach junior high and substitute teaching. I managed to avoid dealing with everything until November of 1997. I lost my job and everything came crashing down.
I was still in school and subbing but I couldn't get onto my feet. I luckily got help after almost sitting down in the grocery store to cry a few weeks later. I am still on medication for depression, but I feel that looking at everything I have been through and how hard I worked that this is acceptable.
I am now a computer teacher in an elementary school. I am working on getting on with my life and look at my experience as a rebirth of sorts. I now refer to my surgery anniversary as my second birthday. We are still unsure if this is genetic. I am not a candidate for Marfan's Syndrome.
I am interested to talking to other heart surgery patients like myself who had a hard time dealing with it. I don't share this part of my life with others because I am young and people tend to get uncomfortable when I mention it. I want to talk to others who have been through it because I know that it can be brought up without problem.
Good luck to you all and take care,
Update: 15 July 2005
As some of you know I am flying to South Dakota for heart surgery. I have to have a valve replaced. What you may not know is that 9 years ago I had heart surgery. My last heart surgery was to replace the same leaky valve but when my chest was opened up, I had an ascending aortic aneurysm above/next to the valve. The heart surgeon (Dr. James Oury) I had was an expert in replacing valves and luckily in fixing these problems. He implanted something called a Dacron hemashield (it looks a lot like a vacuum hose) and left my valve intact since the leak was mostly corrected by the implant. I came home and student taught 3 weeks later.
I have to have my heart checked regularly and the video from my last check up was sent to my original surgeon for review. CJ and I are wanting to have a family but I had to have him check me out first since my heart doc here isn't familiar with my implant. Dr. Oury reviewed the tape and found that my valve's leak is worse than ever. Dr. Oury said I need surgery to repair it. Since I need a 2 week window of time and summer is almost up, I am having it now. I don't want to miss any school and this will help minimize the chance I will.
I am going to Rapid City Regional Hospital in South Dakota because my original doctor is there now. He put the implant in that my new valve will attach to. He is either going to replace the valve or do something called the Ross procedure. My husband, parents, sister and nephew are going there with me.
Please keep my family in your thoughts. We have been through a lot in the past weeks with my Grandpa breaking his hip, getting ill and then passing away. This just adds to it. We are all heart broken.
Update by Staci's sister, Dawn: 12 August 2005
Staci went in for her surgery on July 19, 2005, one day after her 31st birthday. Although her heart was repaired, she died due to complications from the surgery. At some point in the early morning after her surgery, Staci suffered what the doctors believed was a series of seizures that caused her brain to swell to the point that it crushed her brain stem. The doctors are not sure what caused this.
Staci was pronounced dead on July 22. Our family is heartbroken.
Although, we were originally told that Staci was not a Marfan's candidate, the doctor said that her disease was a form of Marfans.
Any comments can be sent to my email address, Dawn
Discussion, comments, or questions: Staci B.
© Copyright 1999 Staci B.