May is around the corner and one of our warrior patients is an inspiring mom and someone whom we are grateful to know and have cared for. Her name is Kuan-hsien ‘Milly’ Lee.
She is a 36-year old mother of two who was recently treated for a mitral valve prolapse by CTVS board-certified cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Faraz Kerendi.
Mitral valve prolapse is a heart condition that affects the valve between the left heart chambers. The mitral valve is made up of thin leaflets which can bulge outwards (or prolapse) and result in blood flowing backward toward the lungs as the heart contracts. It is typically caused by dysfunctional connective tissues in the heart, and although sometimes it is not serious or life-threatening, it can lead to heart failure if left untreated.
Milly did grow up with a confirmed heart murmur (irregular blood flow through the heart that causes a distinctive swooshing sound), but it never gave her any trouble earlier in life.
Fast forward to 10 weeks after her son was born in July 2022 when she began to feel pressure in her chest and had difficulty breathing. She initially thought it was due to dehydration, but then she wisely decided to seek an evaluation with a cardiologist, just to be on the safe side.
Milly was diagnosed with mitral valve prolapse and severe mitral regurgitaion (a leaky mitral valve). As a result, her heart was slowly enlarging to an unhealthy size, and fluid was accumulating in her lungs, leading to the pressure in her chest and difficulty breathing.
It is unknown if the extra strain her body experienced during pregnancy caused the mitral valve prolapse to get worse, but it is a possibility.
Dr. Kerendi performed mitral valve repair via a MICS (Minimally Invasive Cardiac Surgery) approach on MiIly to correct the defective valve. Minimally invasive heart surgery involves making a very small incision under the breast and using microscopic instruments to access the heart through the rib cage and to repair the valve. It is much less traumatic than the traditional open-heart surgical method of breaking through the breast bone to gain access.
“Milly was an ideal candidate for MICS as most cases of mitral valve prolapse can be effectively treated with this type of less invasive approach,” explains Dr. Kerendi. “With the smaller incision and less recovery time than traditional open-heart surgery, she was able to get back to taking care of her young children, and being an active mother, which is so important to her.”
Following the procedure, Milly was only in the hospital for five days and says she felt about 85 to 90% back to her normal self around two weeks later. She has even returned to her full-time work as a realtor.
“It is not lost on me that with Mother’s Day coming up how grateful I am to still be here for my children and family, but now with a stronger and healthier heart,” reflects Milly.
We are in awe of mothers everywhere like Milly who show up every single day in caring for their families and who are not just surviving, but thriving, in the face of challenges.