Tag Archives: Open heart surgery

Listen to Your Symptoms: Shortness of Breath Leads to Open Heart Surgery

Karen Rainwater loves spending time with her grandchildren. But a few months ago, a simple visit to see them created cause for concern.

She was reading a story to 5-year-old Sam and 2-year-old Mallie in December when her daughter noticed she was really short of breath.
Karen knew something wasn’t right. In fact, she’d been really tired and short of breath for about a month.

So she made an appointment to see Brandon C. Drafts, MD, FACC, a cardiologist with Lexington Cardiology, a Lexington Medical Center physician practice.

Karen Rainwater reading with her grandchildren in West Columbia

After listening to Karen’s heart with a stethoscope for a few seconds, Dr. Drafts told her there was a problem.

“She had a prominent heart murmur that sounded like it could be a potentially severe mitral valve disorder,” Dr. Drafts said. “An echocardiogram showed severe mitral valve regurgitation. That occurs when the mitral valve leaflets don’t close correctly and cause blood to go backwards in the heart, leading to fluid build up in the lungs.”

Further testing showed that a cord, which holds one of the mitral valve leaflets in place, had ruptured.

In Karen’s case, a defect in the valve structure was to blame. In other cases, heart attacks or chronically weak and dilated heart muscle can cause mitral valve regurgitation.

The news surprised Karen. At 62, with a busy life, three grown children and three grandchildren, she had never had heart problems before or had a doctor tell her that her heart didn’t sound right.

Dr. Drafts consulted Jeffrey A. Travis, MD, of Lexington Cardiovascular Surgery, a Lexington Medical Center physician practice.

“Because of the the cord tearing, Karen had congestive heart failure and would not get better without surgery,” Dr. Travis said.

Dr. Brandon Drafts

Within a few days of testing, Karen was staring down heart surgery during the holidays.

“I was absolutely shocked and asked Dr. Travis how long I’d be in the hospital,” she said. “He told me, ‘About a week, plus four to six weeks in recovery.’” I told him, ‘I don’t have time!’ It was less than two weeks until Christmas.”

But Dr. Drafts and Dr. Travis wanted to coordinate her care quickly. She received her diagnosis on Wednesday and had open heart surgery the following Monday.

“The heart undergoes changes when a valve fails, and the quicker you fix it, the less likely the changes will be permanent,” Dr. Travis said. “That’s why it’s important to listen to your body, and if you notice changes, seek medical attention.”

Karen had open heart surgery at Lexington Medical Center on December 18 and went home on Christmas Eve.

Dr. Jeffrey Travis

Her long-term prognosis is excellent.

“The quick coordination of care allowed Karen to get relief from her symptoms sooner and avoid any potential complications from congestive heart failure,” Dr. Drafts said. “I don’t think Karen initially realized how sick she was before surgery, but she feels significantly better now.”

Karen felt confident and at peace with all the care she received at Lexington Medical Center.

“While there have been some normal hurdles, recovery has been great,” she said. “Every day I can do something more than I did the day before.”

That includes more story time with the grandkids.

New Aortic Valve Procedure Answers Prayer

Thomas Caldwell has a heart for prayer. As pastor of Beacon Baptist Church in Lexington, he leads his congregation with faith. This fall, when doctors at Lexington Medial Center told him there was something wrong with his aortic valve and that it needed to be replaced, he began to pray.

The pastor shared his story with Dawndy Mercer Plank in this WIS-TV news story. Watch it below.


At age 81, Thomas decided he didn’t want to have open heart surgery. That was a big decision because not having his aortic valve fixed could shorten his life. But he soon learned he was a candidate for transcatheter aortic valve replacement, known as TAVR. The procedure used to be considered experimental and only for patients who were unable to have open heart surgery because of advanced age or other health problems. But right after Thomas’ appointment and his conversation with God, the procedure was approved for nearly all aortic valve patients. In fact, Thomas became the first patient to have TAVR at Lexington Medical Center under the newly expanded guidelines.

Patient Story: Congenital Heart Defect Leads to Aortic Valve Surgery

When Robert Prielipp of Lexington was just 24 years old, he lost his father to heart failure. Robert’s father was born with a bicuspid aortic valve, the most common congenital heart defect. A normal aortic valve has three leaflets that open and close to allow oxygenated blood out of the heart into the body. In a bicuspid aortic valve, two of the leaflets are fused. Sometimes, that can cause the valve to be narrowed or leak, making it harder for the heart to pump blood. Over time, it can cause the heart muscle to thicken and lead to heart failure.

The doctor told Robert’s mother it would be wise for Robert to have his heart checked as well, since a bicuspid aortic valve is common and can be hereditary.

Robert was always active in his youth. “I played basketball, football, baseball and golf. I also ran 5K races. I never had an issue with anything,” he said. But his father’s death prompted him to see a cardiologist once he reached his 30s.

Robert learned he suffered from the same heart defect. “My doctor said that I had a heart murmur, but that I probably wouldn’t have to worry about having my aortic valve repaired until sometime in my 60s.”

With continued monitoring, all was well until Robert hit his 40s, when his doctor expressed concern that the valve might be deteriorating faster than originally expected.

“Tests showed that there was a buildup of calcium in the valve,” he said. “I kept thinking that my dad was just 52 when he passed away and his brother was even younger.”
Robert was an avid runner, completing three-mile jogs several times a week. He began noticing that it would take him longer to finish his workout – and he was becoming more easily winded.

Dr. Dee Prastein of Lexington Cardiovascular Surgery

Dr. Dee Prastein of Lexington Cardiovascular Surgery

At Lexington Cardiovascular Surgery, a Lexington Medical Center physician practice, Dee Prastein, MD, recommended that he have aortic valve replacement surgery sooner rather than later. Dr. Prastein said his aortic valve was severely deteriorated and he had an enlarging aneurysm, both of which needed to be addressed surgically. 
The defective valve would be replaced with either a mechanical or tissue valve. In August of 2015, Robert underwent open heart surgery at Lexington Medical Center.

Robert credits Dr. Prastein with easing his concerns over the surgery. “I had a lot of anxiety prior to the surgery, not knowing what to expect,” he recalled. “But she would even call me after my appointments to make sure she had answered all my questions. That was extremely helpful for me.” And Dr. Prastein included Robert in the decision process for determining what type of valve replacement would be best for him and his lifestyle.

With surgery and recovery now behind him, Robert is feeling great. “I enrolled in Lexington Medical Center’s cardiac rehabilitation program after surgery. I was able to build my endurance back up and I’m feeling back to my old self. I’m pretty much doing everything that I did before.”

That includes regular jogs at the Lexington High School track near his home – where his time for a three-mile run is now steadily improving.

While Robert didn’t exhibit the same symptoms as his father – difficulty breathing, and swelling in his feet and legs – he knows that he learned from the tragedy of losing his father and he hopes others will benefit, too. “I’ve been telling everyone that it doesn’t hurt to get looked at. Just because you feel well, as I did, doesn’t necessarily mean all is well, especially when it comes to your heart,” he said. “When you turn 40, just have a checkup. If everything is fine, then great. If not, then hopefully, you caught the problem early. As my 95-year-old grandmother says, ‘Just take it one day at a time.’”