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Speaking with Kim, you would never guess that this vibrant 52-year-old mother of three, who also owns two daycare centers with her mother, was born with congenital heart problems, which included transposition of the great vessels, pulmonary stenosis, and a ventricular septal defect.
When Kim was born in 1966, doctors told her parents that they were not sure she would live. At that time, there were very few options available to them. But after five heart surgeries, Kim thrived.
Some six years ago, her pulmonary valve began to fail. Kim chalked it up to “just getting older.” At the time, she was involved with the Adult Congenital Heart Association (ACHA) where she talked to members about aging and the potential for additional interventions. “About that time, I went into congestive heart failure. I thought I’d be facing another open-heart surgery, exactly what I was discussing with the ACHA members.
“This was the worst cardiac health I’d had in many years. It was scary. Since I had so much scar tissue from past heart surgeries, I worried that if I had to have a valve replaced surgically, it might be the last one I could get. I had three kids depending on me. To face this was tough. But I was fortunate to get the Melody Transcatheter Pulmonary Valve (TPV) Therapy.”
Medtronic’s Melody TPV Therapy is designed to extend the life of failed pulmonary valve conduits using a less-invasive approach than open-heart surgery. The Melody TPV Therapy valve is delivered to the heart through the cardiovascular system by means of a thin, hollow tube called a catheter. Though not without risk, Melody TPV was an alternative treatment option for Kim.
According to Kim, the Melody valve made a huge improvement in the daily physical activity she’s able to perform. “After all I’ve been through, I’m thrilled to be sitting here talking with you, especially since I didn’t think I had a lot of options.”
“When I look back on the time leading up to my Melody valve procedure, I feel really lucky. I was always active until a few years after my surgical conduit replacement.” On a trip to Washington DC to look at colleges with her daughter, Kim began to feel extraordinarily tired. She assumed it was just a consequence of aging, but something was actually changing in her cardiac system. Simply walking, playing with her kids, and climbing stairs left her exhausted. She decided it was time to see her primary care physician and cardiologist. Her EKG results clearly demonstrated a problem and a cardiac MRI confirmed that her heart was performing very poorly.
Back then, the Melody TPV Therapy was a fairly new option. Kim underwent her procedure at Boston Children’s Hospital, where she’d been going her entire life. “I’m thankful that I didn’t have to have my chest cracked open again. It made my recovery so much easier.
“My heart responded well to the Melody valve. The recovery was relatively fast. It certainly beats open-heart surgery, where it took two months for me to feel human again. After the Melody valve surgery, I began to feel better in about a month.” At around six months, Kim felt that “life was good.” After the procedure, her right ventricle has returned to its normal size and her output is great. She does yoga classes and walks a couple of miles with her kids, who love that she can do things with them again.
“I feel like I never went through it at all. I feel like I won the lottery by getting to age 50. I spent my life thinking I would never hit this milestone, so I embrace it and love it.
“Receiving the Melody valve has been life-changing for me and a journey for my family. They know that I have a serious heart condition. They also see that there are options available and that staying healthy and active is important. I try not to take anything for granted and stay active because it helps me stay strong in case I need another intervention.”
In her capacity as chairwoman of ACHA’s Boston Congenital Heart Walk for 5 years, a Heart-to-Heart Ambassador, and chair of the Boston ACHA Gala, Kim has met many people with congenital heart disease (CHD). “It’s fascinating to see how far cardiac care has progressed. Because I work closely with the ACHA, I know there are now more options available than there were just a few years ago, especially for adults. Too many people fall out of care, only to return when they’re not healthy. It’s great to connect with people and help them understand that this is a lifelong journey. With the right care and the right interventions, they can lead quality, active lives.”
About a year after her Melody Valve placement, Kim returned to Washington DC and climbed the steps of the Capital. “I was so impressed with myself. Since then, I tell everyone, ‘I love Melody.’”
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 Kim'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.