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Dad and Son With Same Heart Condition Both Have Aortic Repair Surgeries

Jerry Shiner and his 31-year-old son, Zac, have a lot in common. Both were amateur hockey players in their youth, they live close to one another in Clinton Township, Michigan, and work at adjacent desks as wealth management advisors for a financial services company.

They also share a genetic heart disorder called Loeys-Dietz syndrome, a rare connective tissue disease that over time severely damaged their aortas. However, both Jerry and Zac feel fortunate to have undergone life-preserving heart surgery performed by cardiothoracic surgeon Eric Roselli, MD, who is Chief of Adult Cardiac Surgery at Cleveland Clinic.

Jerry and Zac Shiner with their family.
Jerry, Zac and their family. (Courtesy: Britany Shiner)

Jerry’s medical journey began suddenly in 2018 when he went to a local hospital after experiencing searing heartburn for a couple of days. A CT scan and other imaging tests revealed Jerry had an aortic dissection, a serious condition in which a tear occurs in the artery that carries oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the body. He was rushed to a hospital in Detroit, where he underwent corrective surgery.

A few years later, Zac – then just 29 years old – told his primary care physician about his father’s surgery. That prompted the doctor to order cardiac screenings that unexpectedly revealed Zac had an aneurysm in the aortic root that required surgery as the aneurysm could eventually rupture.

Zac undergoing an echocardiogram at Cleveland Clinic.
Zac undergoing an echocardiogram at Cleveland Clinic. (Courtesy: Cleveland Clinic)

Recalls Zac, “After my dad’s operation, I didn’t think much about possibly having a similar problem, given my age. But when they detected the ballooning of my aorta, it made sense to do the surgery sooner than later.”

Zac’s childhood friend connected him with Dr. Roselli. Zac –hoping to complete the surgery before his wife, Britany, was expected to give birth to their second of three children a few months later –made an appointment and was immediately thankful to have Dr. Roselli lead his care.

“He has such a calming presence and made me feel comfortable about his surgical plan,” notes Zac. “He explained it would be best for me not to wait for something to happen in order to have surgery.”

Less than one month later, Zac underwent a successful valve-sparing root replacement. Zac recovered quickly and was back at work in five weeks. Realizing that as part of Zac’s preoperative testing he and Jerry both had Loeys-Dietz syndrome, Jerry agreed to have Dr. Roselli review his medical records to ensure his aortic problem hadn’t reoccurred.

Zac with Drs. Milind Desai and Eric Roselli at Cleveland Clinic.
Zac with cardiologist Milind Desai, MD, MBA, and Dr. Roselli, during a follow-up appointment at Cleveland Clinic. (Courtesy: Cleveland Clinic)

Says Dr. Roselli, “Many chronic aortic dissections need to be repaired again after the original surgery, and these problems can get worse quickly.”

For more than 15 years, Dr. Roselli has spearheaded efforts to perfect a branched stented anastomosis (B-SAFER) frozen elephant trunk procedure. It includes a total replacement of the aortic root as well as the arch, which is the segment of the aorta that supplies blood to the brain.

From his review, Dr. Roselli found Jerry’s dissection problem had returned, an issue that could be resolved by the B-SAFER procedure. Months after his son’s operation, Jerry, now 63 years old, underwent the surgery by Dr. Roselli and his team that successfully treated Jerry’s condition.

Jerry, his son, Zac, and grandkids.
Jerry looks forward to continue spending time with his son and grandkids. (Courtesy: Britany Shiner)

Being aware of the genetic disorder, Dr. Roselli has also talked with the families about the potential for developing a screening plan for Jerry’s grandkids, including Zac’s three young children.

Today, both Jerry and Zac are healthy and active and looking forward to many more years of celebrating milestones and combining Father’s Day celebrations.

Says Jerry, “I’m happy to be alive and in good health. I have fun with my six grandkids and want to keep on enjoying life.”

Related Institutes: Heart, Vascular & Thoracic Institute (Miller Family)
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