Marcie Mastropaolo, a Loveland mother of two, was in her 20s when she was in a car crash. While at the hospital, doctors noticed she had a heart murmur, which ultimately led her to undergo a rare form of open heart surgery, called the Ross Procedure, on Thursday at Christ Hospital.
The procedure, normally done in young children, is becoming more common among young adults under the age of 50. The extremely technical surgery is only performed by a handful of surgeons in the Tri-State.
“A heart murmur is just the noise that they hear." said Mastropaolo. "It's like the blood flow going back and they don’t necessarily know exactly what is going on so we took those next steps find out. An echo-cardiogram, where you can actually see your heart and that's where they look at all the valves and they found out that I do have that Bicuspid valve.
Doctors discovered she had heart disease, a bicuspid aortic valve.
At the time, Mastropaolo was told her condition would only need to be monitored annually throughout her life and that there could be a possibility of surgery in her 70s.
Instead, she recently learned her valve was failing and if she didn't act soon, she may not be alive in 5 years.
After several medical opinions she wound up in front of Christ Hospital surgeon Dr. J. Michael Smith, who said she was a great candidate for the Ross Procedure.
In the procedure, a surgeon takes the diseased valve and replaces it with the patients healthy pulmonary valve. The pulmonary valve is then replaced with a valve from a cadaver.
“In the past 5 years as more evidence has come out showing that this is really a better operation, a better valve substitute for younger patients, the number of ross procedures being performed in the United States, Canada and Europe is really increasing," said Smith.
Mastropaolo's first cardiologist said the best option she had was to receive a mechanical valve, but because she would have to be put on blood thinners for the rest of her life, Mastropaolo was concerned about the quality and length of life the option would provide.
Mastropaolo said she is sharing her story to encourage others to get their hearts checked out.
"If it hadn't been for the car accident I don't know when I would have been diagnosed," she said.