Henry

Age: 21

My name is Jindrich, I’m 21 years old and I had my PEARS surgery in May 2022 at General university hospital in Prague as patient no. 636.

In my early teens I fell in love with fitness and bodybuilding, taking it very seriously and training definitely too much, but enjoying it. When the time of choosing a college came, I decided on a college of physical education and sports and started training MMA. At that time, I was really pushing my body to its limits with 2-3 training sessions 5 times a week.

After one of these tough workouts, I felt a strong pain in my chest and ended up fainting on the subway on my way home. I didn’t want to make any big deal of it and went home, but my ex-girlfriend convinced me to call an ambulance (I am very grateful to her for that, she probably saved my life ????).

They took me to hospital where they kept me in overnight and did a CT scan and echo in the morning. They discovered that I have a bicuspid aortic valve and a 5.1 cm diameter ascending aortic aneurysm of my aortic root. Bang! I was shocked, my whole life fell apart, my sports career fell apart overnight. 

Journey to PEARS

My cardiologist put me in contact with my surgeon at GNU, prof. Tomáš Grus and my 6-month waiting period (which felt like forever) started. At our first appointment, my surgeon offered me PEARS as a go-to option because I’m young and my valve, although bicuspid, works well. My surgeon and his team seemed to be waiting and observing me (supposedly they consulted on my case at a cardiac surgery meeting) and I had a couple more appointments with my surgeon. After 3 months my surgeon told me that maybe the PEARS isn’t the best choice and that he would rather perform a valve sparing root replacement. Another shock.

At that point I fell into a depression and anxiety, I even had some panic attacks, and didn’t know what to do with my life. The waiting for surgery and uncertainty really messed me up to the point where I was afraid to be home alone and lift anything heavier than 5kg. The PEARS procedure seemed like a lot better option to me, so I discussed it with my surgeon, but he was increasingly inclined towards the VSSR option, mainly because of the bicuspid aortic valve. So, because of my poor mental state, I agreed to the VSSR procedure and got my surgery date, finally after more than 4 months of waiting.

The day before surgery, when I was packing up my stuff for hospital, one of the surgery team members called me that the surgeon and his team changed their minds, and they want to do the PEARS procedure. Another shock. On the one hand I was relieved that it will be PEARS, on the other hand it was painful because I was mentally prepared to do the surgery next day ???? So they did another CT scan, and we waited another 5 weeks until the device was ready.

Surgery and hospital stay

I finally got my surgery on 26th May 2022. For me, the waiting period was hardest part – the surgery itself and the hospital stay was much better than I could have imagined. At day one they shaved me and prepared for surgery, which was early morning at the day 2. The night before I got some sleeping pills and in the morning some sedative medication, my surgeon visited me and went through what to expect and assured me that this is the best option. The facilities of GNU were modern, and everything seemed very professional to me, so I knew that I was in good hands. 

After the op I woke up in ICU and don’t remember much from day 2-4, just that I got my first meal at day 3 and the pain was almost non-existent. I don’t remember any pain, just discomfort from the drain tubes in my chest. Day 4 I was put into a normal room and started to have an appetite again, exercising with a physiotherapist twice a day and taking a few walks around the corridor. I had a little pericardial effusion but that disappeared at day 5, along with a slight temperature which also got better. 

Day 6 they took out my drain tubes which was a huge relief, mainly because I didn’t have to carry the vessel full of blood. Day 8 I was released home with some medication and instructions about how to take care of the incision. 

Home recovery

The home recovery went well, only dealt with some atrial fibrillation but that got better with a higher dose of bisoprolol. Every day I went for a walk in the morning and evening, felt stronger day by day and was also getting rid of the brain fog from the anesthesia. After 3 months I was almost back at my physical condition before op and started to swim 3 times a week, do yoga exercises and go for a 4-5 km walk every other day.

I started to take my health seriously by regular aerobic exercise (I realized that you don’t have to lift iron in a gym for 2 hours every day to be in good shape ????) eating a healthy diet (lot of protein, good fat that doesn’t raise LDL cholesterol and complex carbohydrates) and a high quality sleeping schedule, which is a game changer for me.

Life after PEARS

After a year follow-up, aortic dimensions stayed the same (I went from 5.1 to 4.2 post op, probably because of the 95% PEARS device and difference in aortic wall thickness) and the mild regurgitation of my BAV disappeared. 

Now, after 1.5-year post op, I feel the best I ever felt in my life – physically and especially mentally stronger than ever. My life has changed completely, all to the better. I started to study at IT college, found a great part time job in IT and completely changed my perspective on life – appreciate the little things, be aware that not every day is guaranteed and therefore you should live your life to the fullest and don’t let your fears or anxiety take over. 

From the physical perspective, I lost 15kg of muscle but to my surprise, I feel better than ever in my body. I still take bisoprolol 2,5mg daily as a prevention. My blood pressure is under 120/70 and pulse rate in the low 60s.

The biggest difference is in my mental state – I feel like when you go through this kind of life changing event you become mentally tough and resilient, more mature person. If you realize how precious our time here is and start to enjoy the little things in life, you become much happier person.

My tips

  • If you are choosing a surgical procedure, do your own research, get a second opinion and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  • Don’t panic about your condition, just to know about it is a blessing.
  • Don’t be afraid of the procedure, after some time it will just be a week in your life and normal life will return.

I am forever grateful to Tal for inventing this life changing device and improving many lives, to my surgeon for choosing the right way and my cardiologist who take the best care of me. 

Year of operation: 2022