Libby's Story Heart Valve Disease


If you're looking for Libby today, you might find her walking the beach on the Outer Banks of North Carolina or strolling along the boardwalk in Atlantic City.

"I feel great. Thanks to my new heart valve, I have a new lease on life."

Life at a Fast Pace

As a mother, foster parent and retail manager, Libby had always moved at a fast pace. After retiring in 2001, she continued this pace by caring for her three grandchildren, spending time with family and friends and enjoying hobbies, including redecorating, traveling, and woodworking.

Over the years, Libby had enjoyed good health. In fact, to her large, extended family and friends, Libby was the picture of health. What most of them didn't know, however, was that in 2004, the discovery of a heart murmur led to testing, which revealed a heart condition called mitral valve prolapse.

The heart's mitral valve controls blood flow from the lungs, to the heart, and throughout the body's circulatory system. With mitral valve prolapse, the heart's mitral valve is not working properly and may cause symptoms such as weakness, shortness of breath, excessive sweating, and nausea.

At the time, Libby was not experiencing any of these symptoms, and treatment wasn't necessary. As a precaution, she returned to the cardiologist each year for testing to ensure that her condition didn't worsen.

A Sudden Change

For the next 3 years, Libby remained symptom-free and continued her active lifestyle. But, in the spring of 2007, she suddenly began to feel very tired. Within weeks, walking up a flight of stairs required several breaks as Libby struggled to find the energy to make it to the top.

Soon, even walking down the stairs was a major challenge. Basic household chores, such as cooking, cleaning, and doing laundry, required all of her energy. It became extremely difficult to lift and carry her young grandson, for whom she cared each day.

At the time, Libby, who was 71, didn't give these sudden changes much thought. "I figured I was just overdoing it." That all changed on June 7, 2007, though, when she was overcome with severe pain across her shoulder blades and shortness of breath. Frightened, Libby called her son, a local emergency management service dispatcher, and he immediately dispatched an ambulance to her house.

The paramedics transported Libby to the hospital, where an extensive battery of tests revealed that her mitral valve was no longer working properly and would need repair.

The mitral valve prolapse also had caused Libby to develop an irregular heart beat called atrial fibrillation, which can cause blood clots and stroke. In addition to repairing her heart valve during the procedure, the cardiac surgeon treated Libby's atrial fibrillation with a procedure called surgical ablation.

Heart Valve Replacement Brings Immediate Relief

One week after arriving at the hospital, Libby was scheduled for surgery. During the heart valve repair procedure, however, the cardiac surgeon found Libby's mitral valve in worse condition than originally thought. The valve would need to be replaced with a new heart valve – a Hancock® II tissue valve from Medtronic.

The Hancock II valve is a stented tissue valve obtained from a pig's heart, which is very similar to a human heart. The valve's leaflets open and close like a human heart to control the flow of blood. It is FDA approved and has been used worldwide to treat heart valve conditions like mitral valve prolapse for more than 25 years.

"The surgeon said he chose it for its longevity," shared Libby. "That sounded good to me."

After implanting Libby's new Hancock II tissue valve, the surgeon performed the surgical ablation procedure to help treat Libby's atrial fibrillation. The entire procedure took 6 to 7 hours.

The next day, Libby was walking up and down the hospital stairs with little effort. Five days later, she went home, feeling like herself again.

Brand New Again

Today, Libby is once again active and strong. She is doing everything she did before surgery except caring for her grandchildren. Trips to the Outer Banks and Atlantic City are now treasured excursions.

"I have a new appreciation for life. My heart valve replacement made such a difference for me. I feel like I'm brand new."

This story recounts the experience of a patient who received a Medtronic Hancock II tissue valve. Medtronic, Inc. invited this person to share her story candidly. As you read it, please bear in mind that these experiences are specific to this particular patient. Results vary; not every response is the same.

Information on this web site should not be a substitute for consulting with your physician.

This story reflects one person's experience. Not every person will receive the same results. Talk to your doctor about your treatment options.