By Nick Papas
I had just completed the 2011 Pittsburgh Marathon. It was not my best time. There was no personal record that day. It was a day marked by a continued struggle with a chronic heel injury. But there was something more serious brewing in my body that day. It was a particularly strong flare-up of my mitral valve pain. I was so familiar with the pain. It had been diagnosed and studied throughout my life. I had mitral valve prolapse.
So, I brushed off the chest pain as I slogged through the marathon and finished.
Then a couple hours later, as the marathon and half-marathon runners of our family celebrated with extended family and supportive friends, I shared my personal marathon experience with my soon-to-be daughter-in-law, Beth Ann. My tale included the throw-away detail about my old familiar chest pains. No big deal. Or so I thought.
Beth Ann, a medical student, was not as flippant as I was about the little detail of chest pain. She pulled out her stethoscope and diagnosed me on the spot as having mitral valve regurgitation. She strongly suggested that I see my PCP. I was stubborn and a bit incredulous. I didn’t rush.
Eventually my heart acted up in such new and painful ways that I was compelled to go to my doctor. This set into motion the chain of events that lead me to Dr. James Gammie at UMMC.
An initial link in this chain was me doing my homework. I read the scientific papers. I consulted with knowledgeable, trusted people and friends.
I had to make my decision: Was I, a man who loves to be active by running and biking, going to be happy taking drugs? Would I be satisfied watching my body get weaker and weaker while my heart became more and more sick?
Ultimately, the decision was a no-brainer.
I took action right away, partially because I concluded that it was the right thing to do and partially because my son’s wedding was just around the corner. I wanted to be healed enough to dance at my son’s wedding.
My surgery was performed at UMMC on September 6, 2011. Noah and Beth Ann were married October 8, 2011! I am happy to say I danced! I danced quite a bit! My wife, Patty (in the photo with me), and I had a great time.
I am grateful not only to be alive but to be living. I am optimistic that with my newly repaired, healthy heart I will be able to enjoy the coming years with my family and to live these years actively.
In the future, look for me in the 2012 Baltimore Half or Full Marathon. I’m the self-proclaimed, 52-year old, poster “child” of UMMC Mitral Valve Repairs!