Marina McGrath’s heart valve disease story
Heart Valve Disease Marina was an active woman in her 50s, working hard as a midwife until she noticed symptoms of breathlessness and tiredness. It wasn’t until a visit to her GP that she found out she had aortic stenosis (AS).
Not long after her 50th birthday in 2005, Marina attended a Well Woman Clinic, as many women do, to look into having Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). It was during the routine tests at the clinic that she first discovered her blood pressure was quite high. On the clinic’s recommendation, she paid a visit to her GP. Thinking back, Marina also had begun to notice that she would sometimes feel shortness of breath when she exerted herself, but simply thought it was all part of being in your 50s!
Her GP listened to her heart with a stethoscope and immediately suspected aortic stenosis so he referred her to the cardiologist. This suspected diagnosis came as a shock to Marina as she hadn't heard of valve disease, in fact only seven per cent of over 60s in a recent survey have. Being a fellow clinician, Marina wanted to find out all that she could about her diagnosis and asked as many questions as she could think of. She was told that her symptoms would most likely worsen over time and that she would require an aortic valve replacement in the future. Not the news she was hoping to hear!
As her AS was only mild, her cardiologist arranged for her to visit him once a year to see how it was progressing. Each year she would go for her check up and each year she began to notice herself slowing down and her symptoms becoming worse. In 2010, it become difficult to ignore the fact that she was more breathless than her older peers and she resorted to doing things at a much slower pace than before. At the same time, her yearly echocardiogram began to show her AS progressing from mild to moderate and finally to severe.
Finally, on 7 June 2014, Marina was admitted to have her aortic valve replacement surgery.
Since her surgery, Marina’s life is finally back to normal and she is feeling much more like her usual self. She took six months off to recover and get herself back into shape before returning to her work full-time. She has been able to continue with her active lifestyle as well and still finds time to do her favourite activities, especially hillwalking.
“While my experience with aortic stenosis has been a rollercoaster ride, I am so glad that I finally went through with my treatment.” said Marina, “I am now able to keep up with all of my friends on our walks and I still have the energy to work in a job that I get so much out of and contribute so much back to younger midwifes. I have a new lease on life and plan to make the most of it all. To think, it was just because a GP picked up his stethoscope and had listen to my heart!”