Published on June 08, 2020

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Heart Valve Surgery at Silver Cross a Lifesaver for Channahon Man

Andrew Andreas
Andrew Andreas has newfound energy following life-saving heart valve replacement at Silver Cross Hospital.

Andrew Andreas knew it was just a matter of time. Eighteen years ago, Andreas, then 25, temporarily lost his vision. Then he started hyperventilating.

“It hit me like a ton of bricks,” said Andreas. After a battery of tests, doctors found his aortic valve – which normally allows blood flow to be pumped from the main chamber of the heart to the rest of the body – wasn’t working properly, most likely due to a congenital condition. To his relief, doctors said he didn’t need surgery at that time. But he would need surveillance testing twice a year. He’d also need to change his diet and work habits.

Andreas said the first part was no problem. The other, not so much.

“I’m a professional landscaper so from March to November, I’m working 70 or 80 hours a week,” the Channahon man explained. Often, that includes helping out family and close friends with side projects on weekends. Even at that, Andreas said he wasn’t experiencing any symptoms, or so he thought, and his follow-up testing was fairly stable until last September when his cardiologist said, “OK, it’s time,” Andreas said. “I asked him if it could wait until the landscaping season was over in November, so we scheduled it for December.”

Cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Pat Pappas, medical director of Silver Cross Hospital’s heart surgery program, recommended a mechanical aortic valve replacement, which usually lasts for the remainder of a patient’s life. But the mechanical valve requires a lifetime regimen of blood thinners, meaning Andreas would lose his commercial driver’s license.

So, Dr. Pappas agreed to a bioprosthetic valve replacement, using tissue from a cow or a pig.

About Heart Valve Disease

Heart valve disease occurs when one of the major four heart valves aren’t working well, usually as the result of birth defects, infections or hardening of the valves due to aging. This can lead to the narrowed or leaking valves. When valve disease becomes severe, it can put undue stress on the heart muscle. Without intervention, valve disease can lead to progressively poor quality of life and/or death. The best treatment for most severe heart valve disease is to replace the diseased valve with open heart surgery or less invasive interventional procedures.

In the not-too-distant future, Silver Cross will offer a less-invasive procedure called transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR). Dr. Ravi Ramana, an interventional cardiologist on staff at Silver Cross, explained, “TAVR can be done by inserting a catheter about the size of a pen through an artery in the leg and up into the heart. A new tissue heart valve is then implanted inside the narrowed valve resulting in a normal functioning valve. This improves symptoms and takes the excess stress off the heart muscle. TAVR avoids the need for opening the patient’s chest and putting them on a heart-lung machine. Research has consistently showed that TAVR can be very successful in the right patient.”

Following his open heart surgery, Andreas is determined to lead a healthier lifestyle.

Before the hospital had to temporarily suspend cardiac rehabilitation services due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Andreas was a regular there three times a week. He enjoyed supervised workouts on the treadmill and other equipment, and classes on how to eat better.

With his increased exercise and new-found dietary knowledge, Andreas has dropped weight and is amazed at his newfound energy.

“I have a wife and three kids who depend on me,” he said. “I have 70 employees who depend on me. I have to take care of myself. And Silver Cross has helped me do that.”

For more information about heart care at Silver Cross, visit www.silvercross.org/heart

Physicians on Silver Cross Hospital’s Medical Staff have expertise in their areas of practice to meet the needs of patients seeking their care. These physicians are independent practitioners on the Medical Staff and are not the agents or employees of Silver Cross Hospital. They treat patients based upon their independent medical judgment and they bill patients separately for their services.