Sam has congenital heart disease, and was born with a ventricular septal defect (VSD) and aortic valve incompetence (a leaky valve). He had annual checkups, but his condition didn’t affect him much as a child and into his early adult life.
“Looking back, I grew up with as normal a childhood as I could imagine. I had my annual checkups and was aware that my heart was a bit different, but it never actually stopped me from doing anything.”
That all changed with a particularly bad bout of flu in his early thirties which led to him getting endocarditis. It’s a serious, but rare, condition, and caused him to have a six week spell in hospital.
Scans suggested Sam would benefit from an operation to repair his VSD and leaky valve. In 2000, the VSD was repaired successfully, but the attempt to fix his leaky valve was not.
Choosing heart valve replacement
"You can get out there, do what you want to do, if you can put your mind to it."
The impact of his leaky valve continued to worsen, and his quality of life deteriorated. In 2005, he was offered an operation to replace his leaky heart valve. Sam had it replaced with a tissue valve, which has proven very successful. Sam now leads a happy, active and very outgoing life.
“After the operation, I got back into doing everything I was beforehand. I’m probably as fit now, if not fitter, than what I’ve ever been in my life.”
If you've had heart valve surgery, make sure you talk to your doctor before doing physical exercise.
Other people with congenital heart defects
Sam isn't the only one. We have many other stories from people with congenital heart problems:
Anette's heart defect
Claire's sonogram results
Amy's hole in the heart
What does a heart valve replacement involve?
There are four valves in your heart. If one or more of your valves are diseased or damaged, it can affect how your blood flows through your heart. Your valves can either be repaired or replaced with heart valve surgery.
Dr. Justin Davies, our heart valve disease researcher, is working with us help doctors find out whether heart valve replacements are going to be effective for certain patients. More accurate diagnoses help doctors better decide when to make recommendations for surgery. Your donations help fund vital research into the causes and treatments of heart conditions like Sam's.