My husband had stopped the coumadin (warfarin) required for his mechanical aortic valve, so that his blood clotting would return to normal. He was to check into the hospital at noon on Memorial Day, the 28th, where he would go on a heparin drip to prevent clots from forming and also have the typical pre-surgery tests.
We each have our own memories of that experience, but one thing is certain. Today, we remember and remain very thankful for the safe and complete removal of that aneurysm, up to and underneath part of his arch. It is a difficult surgery, and was done flawlessly. Fifteen years later, the repair and the aorta itself remain excellent.
Today, we are most grateful to his own gifted surgeon. We also understand that the pioneering work of aortic surgeons laid the foundation upon which his surgery was possible. The surgery my husband had that day remains perhaps the most complex in the chest, involving completely stopping blood flow at cold temperatures. Only some surgeons have this skill. We still marvel that we found such hands.
The Unknown Bicuspid
There is someone else that I remember today. I do not know his name. His identity is lost, except perhaps to his family. I have searched the medical papers, to see if anything might have been written during that era, that might be about him. I cannot find it.
Today I remember him because, like my husband and many others, one day he went into the hospital to have BAV surgery.
It happened sometime after his valve surgery was over, during that first night. The doctors covering that night saw his kidneys weren't working. They did not know why. They did not know his aorta was torn, bleeding inside. The blood flow was cut off from his kidneys, so they could not work. By the time, the next morning, someone figured it out, it was too late. He could not be saved.
Lying there, perhaps the respirator tube still down his throat, helpless, his aorta ripping apart in his chest. It is a horrendous scene. I hope the drugs were strong enough to block the pain. I hope he did not suffer.
It could have happened to my husband. His records show that his aorta was bulging at the time his BAV was removed. Somehow his aorta withstood the clamps, the cutting and sewing, when his BAV was removed. I don't know why it did.
There was a young surgeon in training then, who saw this happen. He never forgot it. From that day forward, he was to save many of those with BAV from a similar fate. Years later, he removed the aneurysm from my husband's chest on May 30th, 2001.
And so today, I remember this young man, and others like him. They are the Unknown Bicuspids. Some of them died of massive aortic bleeding, sometimes under the mistaken label of a massive heart attack. Some of them died because of complications from their BAV.
Yes, we remember these unknown, who lost their fight much too soon. In their memory, those like my husband continue to live, to fight. They are all heart warriors. They have their own battles to fight.