Adam, a navy veteran, is no stranger to overcoming a challenge. With hobbies like skydiving, scaling mountains with his bare hands, hang gliding and rowing his canoe, Adam is a thrill-seeker at heart. Over the course of a 15-year journey, Adam would lean on this innate courage to face mounting heart troubles until an innovative, minimally invasive procedure would give him new life.
Looking at Adam in 2001, you’ld see a healthy, fit man. Even his medical exams indicated as much. Adam always scored a low BMI, low blood pressure and low cholesterol. But, looks — and even tests — can be deceiving.
That year, during a typical day at his job as a computer programmer, Adam felt what could only be described as a burp stuck in his chest. Immediately, his hands began to flounder about, and he collapsed on his keyboard. He had a massive heart attack and for a brief moment, life left him. Luckily, an EMT was called and he was resuscitated.
In the ambulance to Sutter Tracy Community Hospital, Adam’s heart again stopped. Again, the EMT revived him. When Adam arrived at the hospital, doctors found that he had nine severely narrowed arteries — a congenital heart defect he shared with his grandfather, who had died of the same condition.
After several years of continuing heart problems, including undergoing a quadruple bypass surgery in 2006, a routine blood test in 2010 revealed more cardiac trouble. Adam’s heart wasn’t working as well as it should. He was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation and an overworked, failing mitral valve.
For years, Adam lived with these two conditions. In 2015, he underwent open-heart surgery to fix his faulty mitral valve and, perhaps, finally get a reprieve from the conditions that had followed him for 15 years. Surgeons were able to implant the new mitral valve, but unfortunately while on the operating table, Adam crashed. His surgeons’ quickly performed an emergency tracheotomy to save his life.
For two months Adam lay in a coma. When he woke, he found that everything he once took for granted, such as eating, drinking and walking, were impossible. He had to relearn the most basic life skills.
And then again, another hurdle. Just months after the procedure, the new mitral valve that was implanted began to fail. Adam went from being able to run to only walking, to using a cane and then only a scooter. In 2016, his doctor advised him to act quickly before his health deteriorated further.
“My health was abominably bad. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t breathe,” Adam said, adding, “My heart was pumping at 10 or 15 percent efficiency. But it was still beating at 200 beats per minute, exhausting me for 24 hours a day for a solid year.”
Months later, Adam was admitted to the emergency room with pneumonia. After eight days in Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento’s Valve Center, he was introduced to non-surgical mitral valve repair (mitral clip). The non-surgical procedure could replace his failing mitral valve with just a thin tube that would be inserted through a small incision in his leg. Due to Adam’s fear of having another round of open-heart surgery, the minimally invasive procedure was a perfect match.
On Dec. 6, 2016, Adam had his mitral clip procedure. Before the procedure, he could barely move, but by 5:30 pm that evening Adam was able to walk 12 whole laps around the hospital. The procedure was a major success. It was as though he flipped a switch, and with zero pain and little recovery time, Adam was quickly able to get back a bit of normalcy.
“They saved my life,” Adam said. “Dr. Roberts, Sarah and Dr. Tomas, are all amazing. They’re like family. The world needs to know about him and what his team does.”