Helen Millsaps: Seasons of the Heart
|Heart patient Helen Millsaps regained her strength and confidence with cardiac rehabilitation.
Last summer, 79-year-old Helen Millsaps walked five or six miles a week, volunteered at a local hospital and looked forward to the camaraderie of monthly seniors luncheons at her church. Her active life took a turn for the worse, however, as the leaves began to fall.
She began waking up out of breath, with a feeling of heaviness in her chest. Eventually, she could hardly walk from her bed to the bathroom. Because her shortness of breath worsened so rapidly, Helen came to Good Samaritan Hospital’s Emergency Department, where she was treated for congestive heart failure and arrhythmia.
Advanced Techniques to Find the Cause
That episode took Helen to cardiologist George Broderick, MD, where further testing revealed a possible heart valve problem.
Dr. Broderick performed a radial catheterization through the artery in her wrist to diagnose exactly what was causing Helen’s discomfort. “In women, heart problems can be difficult to sort out. A woman may have coronary artery disease, when the arteries are narrowed or blocked from buildup called plaque. Or she may have weakened heart muscle, high blood pressure or valvular heart disease,” he explains.
Fortunately, the Dayton Heart and Vascular Hospital at Good Samaritan offers the tools and specialists needed to diagnose heart problems and a wide range of procedures, from cardiac catheterization to open-heart surgery, to correct them.
Helen In Her Own Words
Click play to watch the video or read the transcript .
Complex Surgery Required
|Dr. K. H. Lim
|Dr. George Broderick
As it turned out, two of Helen’s four heart valves were leaking because they were no longer closing tightly. In addition, three arteries had severe blockages.
“Doctors always listen for heart murmurs — the sound of blood flowing across the valves. Murmurs can be ‘innocent,’ with no damage to the heart valve, or significant with narrowing or leaking,” says Dr. Broderick. “The aortic valve is the heart’s main valve that allows blood to eject from the heart to the body. The mitral valve allows blood into the heart. They work together and, over a lifetime, may narrow or leak due to age, infection or a birth defect.”
In November, cardiothoracic surgeon Kok Hoo Lim, MD, performed surgery to replace Helen’s aortic valve, repair the mitral valve and bypass the three blocked arteries. “We replaced her aortic valve with a porcine valve. Surgeons have used these valves from pigs’ hearts successfully for more than 20 years. Ten years after they’re implanted, 95 percent are still working fine,” Dr. Lim says.
He notes that metallic valve replacements also are widely used. Because they last for a long time, they’re usually placed in younger patients who must take blood thinners for the rest of their lives.
“It’s not unusual for a person to have valve problems and blocked arteries as they get older,” Dr. Lim says. “Whenever possible, we prefer to repair the mitral valve and correct other problems at the same time.”
Rehab: The Road to Recovery
After her successful surgery, Helen participated in Good Sam’s cardiac rehabilitation program at Good Samaritan North Health Center to regain her strength and confidence. The Englewood resident and her family can’t say enough about the care and kindness they encountered throughout their journey.
|Helen exercises under the watchful eye of cardiac therapist Karen Smith.
“We received lots of positive feedback when we asked family, friends and people at church about Dr. Broderick. We learned quickly to respect his honesty and sincerity. He tirelessly and patiently answered so many questions, some over and over,” says Helen’s daughter Patti.
“And we were so impressed with Dr. Lim,” Patti continues. “His calm manner and compassion said it all. Both doctors provided the encouragement our family so needed.
“We are very thankful and blessed to have experienced Dayton Heart and Vascular Hospital at Good Samaritan. They were very precious to us.”
Now, as the leaves return to the trees, Helen welcomes spring with a strong heart — very thankful that she’s back to driving, walking, volunteering and spending time with the people she loves.
Learn more information on heart disease and the advanced solutions at Dayton Heart and Vascular Hospital at Good Samaritan.
<< Samaritan HealthTalk Spring 2011