To see Dan spike a shot to the back corner of the volleyball court or perform a backside grab on his snowboard, you’d never know he grew up as a self-described “scrawny kid who wasn’t allowed to participate in physical education classes.” Dan was born with a condition called Tetralogy of Fallot, which involves numerous defects within the heart structure. These defects cause reduced blood flow to the lungs, resulting in oxygen-poor blood.
When Dan was just three months old, he had open-heart surgery to create flow from his right ventricle to the pulmonary arteries with a valved conduit. Since the average lifespan of a pulmonary valve conduit is limited, and children need different sized conduits as they grow, Dan had five more open-heart surgeries by the time he was 18. During Dan’s last open-heart surgery, complications arose. There was excessive bleeding, and Dan went into sudden cardiac arrest several times. His doctors didn’t think he’d make it. In fact, they contacted his family to come say goodbye, including a sister who was asked to fly home from France.
Dan did pull through, but the experience haunted him so much that he delayed treatment when his conduit failed again. “The valve I received in 1990 was supposed to last about 10 years,” he said. “My doctors kept telling me I needed to get it replaced, and I knew it, too.“
Dan was increasingly getting fatigued. “I could only play volleyball for 10 minutes and then had to sit out. Plus, my heart would race for long periods of time. I was long overdue for a new conduit, but I was scared after my last near-death experience.” Then Dan received hope. He heard about Medtronic’s Melody Transcatheter Pulmonary Valve (TPV) Therapy, which is designed to extend the life of failed pulmonary valve conduits using a less-invasive approach than open-heart surgery. With Melody TPV Therapy, a catheter (a thin, hollow tube) delivers the Melody valve to the heart through the body’s cardiovascular system. Though not without risk, Melody TPV was an alternative treatment option for Dan.
Seven years after doctors recommended replacement, Dan received a new pulmonary valve as part of the Melody clinical trial in the United States.
Dan compared his previous surgeries to Melody TPV Therapy. “Before, surgery took several hours, I was in the hospital for several weeks, and couldn’t exercise for 3 to 4 months,” he explained. "With the Melody procedure, I was in the cath lab for about 2 hours and out of the hospital the next day. I was back at work as a city planner within 4 days and played in a volleyball tournament within a week.”
Dan was able to return to snowboarding with his daughter, martial arts with his son, and horseback riding with his wife. "There weren’t just physical benefits with Melody TPV Therapy,” Dan said. “The psychological benefits are just as important. Now I feel at ease and can truly enjoy life.”
Results may vary. This is one person's experience and results are unique for each patient.
This story recounts the experience of one patient who received a Melody transcatheter pulmonary valve. Medtronic invited this person to share his story candidly. Caution: Experience, risks, outcomes, and results vary. Patient experience may not be comparable to that of Dan's, depending in part upon the condition of the patient or with the techniques, facilities, or products used.
Information on this site should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.