Short of Breath, but Not Short on Faith

Steve Gurley began noticing that climbing stairs in his home would leave him slightly short of breath, but he attributed the condition to a little weight gain and being out of shape. It wasn’t until he almost passed out while walking up six flights of stairs at his office that the ordinarily vibrant 60-year-old recognized something more was going on.

In the cardiologist’s office, Steve underwent a CT scan, echocardiogram (sonogram of the heart), and stress echocardiogram. It was then determined that he had an aortic aneurysm, or enlarged blood vessel, which was causing what’s known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). The HCM was affecting how the mitral and aortic valves in Steve’s heart functioned, causing blood to leak backward through the valves.

The diagnosis was a mouthful, but Steve remembers all too well the words that really stopped him in his tracks. “If you don’t get this fixed, you are going to die.”

Steve soon found himself in the office of cardiothoracic surgeon David Fosdick, M.D., of CVT Surgical Associates, who had removed a cyst from one of Steve’s lungs some 18 years earlier. Dr. Fosdick brought in fellow surgeon Mark Pool, M.D., who specializes in mitral and aortic valve repair and replacement, and both doctors collaborated on further treatment.

“If left untreated, Steve’s aneurysm could have ruptured, sending him into cardiac arrest,” Dr. Pool explained. “We first performed an aortic root replacement, during which the ascending aorta and associated valve were removed and replaced with a prosthetic. This was accompanied by a septal myomectomy to remove the muscular obstruction inside Steve’s heart. Fortunately, when we performed the septal myomectomy, the mitral valve problem corrected itself.”

After surgery, Steve spent four days in the hospital. Within a week of surgery, he was walking inside the local mall to build his strength. By day 10, he was back attending church. Within a month, Steve was enrolled in outpatient cardiac rehabilitation, where he was focused on rebuilding his stamina and strength in preparation for returning to work.

“No one would, in the best of times, choose to have open-heart surgery. But when it’s necessary for one’s survival, one could not ask for a better surgeon than Dr. Pool. He literally gave me my life back,” Steve added.

Providers employed by Texas Health Physicians Group practice independently and are not employees of Texas Health Resources or its hospitals.