After the Heart Heals, Gratitude Endures
Steven Bodnar was only 38 when diagnosed with a leaky heart valve. “I was in absolute shock,” he says. “I work out, I try to eat a healthy diet – I’m not the picture of someone who needs heart surgery.”
Mr. Bodnar, an investor and trader who lives in Connecticut, was undergoing routine pre-surgical testing to remove nasal polyps when his physician heard a heart murmur. This led to an EKG that detected the leaky mitral valve. Because he had no symptoms — which usually include shortness of breath, palpitations, weakness, swelling of feet or ankles and chest discomfort — he feels very lucky that the problem was discovered.
What is Valve Disease?
The heart has four valves, mitral, tricuspid, aortic and pulmonic, that ensure blood flows in only one direction through the heart. Between the upper heart chamber (left atrium) and lower heart chamber (left ventricle) is the mitral valve. Its job is to prevent premature blood flow into the lower heart chamber.
When the two flaps of the mitral valve do not close properly, blood leaks into the upper heart chamber, rather than flowing into the rest of the body. This could lead to congestive heart failure.
"Because of my age, a good hospital wasn’t enough — I wanted the best,” Mr. Bodnar says. He and his fiancée, Katie Queen, began researching treatments, hospitals and physicians who were experts in mitral valve repair. Ten days later, they were on their way to an appointment at Cleveland Clinic.
They met with A. Marc Gillinov, MD, a cardiac surgeon at the Sydell and Arnold Miller Family Heart & Vascular Institute and holder of the Judith Dion Pyle Chair in Heart Valve Research. More testing showed that Mr. Bodnar was a good candidate for minimally invasive robotic surgery, which would mean smaller scars and a faster recovery.
The couple was impressed by the teamwork at Cleveland Clinic. “You know you’re in a place where they’ve seen it all before,” Mr. Bodnar says. “Everyone was very calming and understanding, which created a far less stressful environment.”
Dr. Gillinov performed the surgery in early February 2013, and Mr. Bodnar returned home less than a week later. He’s back to leading a normal life, working and exercising. His only medication is a daily low-dose aspirin and his small scars serve as a friendly reminder to visit the doctor. “If there’s one lesson from my experience, it’s to visit the doctor for an annual physical, even if you feel healthy,” he says.
Meeting an Immediate Need
To show their gratitude for Mr. Bodnar’s exceptional care, the couple has made a gift to the Miller Family Heart & Vascular Institute supporting theStatus.com, a private, secure and confidential website through which patients can communicate with family and friends free of charge.
Patients and their families can create a web page on the site to easily share updates on the patient’s condition, post photos and messages of support from family and friends, and include links to information about the patient’s medical condition.
The couple’s gift will fund operational costs of theStatus.com through 2014.
“Since Cleveland Clinic is a nonprofit hospital, I know that my gift will have a direct impact on patients and their families,” Mr. Bodnar says. “We hope to be donors for many years, but supporting this website allows us to help others right now. We were able to meet a funding need and immediately see the value of our gift.”