Robert 72, was accustomed to living an active life. But in Florida last March, he recalled “all of a sudden I couldn’t play tennis anymore or bounce around on the boat.” Florida physicians told him he need a new mitral valve and offered to replace it with robotic surgery. Advised that it wasn’t an emergency, he returned to New York to consider his options. Walking up the street to his Park Avenue apartment, he stopped four times to rest. “It may not have been an emergency, but I didn’t waste any time doing research,” said the retired businessman, who was accustomed to running the show.
He interviewed leading surgeons in Manhattan and called around for referrals. A tip from a former head of NY Health and Hospitals led him to Maimonides and a meeting with Dr. Ribakove. “He was unbelievable”, recalls Robert,” he sat with me for two hours, explaining everything about the heart and laying out the options.
Dr. Ribakove thought he could repair the valve through minimally invasive surgery, but needed some additional tests to confirm. Bob had already had had previous heart surgery (a stent inserted in 2009), and it was important to have all the data before making the decision.“I was pretty nervous, waiting to hear”, recalls Bob.” But he called me over the weekend and said, “Good news, I can repair it.”
In expert hands, well-performed mitral valve repair offers significant advantage over replacement. Biologic valves (usually made from animal tissue) may need to be replaced after 10-15 years, requiring repeat operations. Bob comes from a long-lived family (including an aunt who lived 103 years), and at age 72, “I didn’t want another operation waiting in the future.” And he definitely wanted minimally invasive surgery, with the promise of faster recovery and less pain.
“It sounds unbelievable, but it wasn’t an ordeal. I had a wonderful experience from the first moment walking through the door. Dr. Ribakove was there all the time. Lorraine [head CCU nurse] is sensational, unbelievably efficient and so personable. I wish I had had employees like that. It’s the whole team, not just one person. “
Recovery took about a month. “Dr. Ribakove told me the truth, that recovery was an up-and-down process. Some days I would feel like crap, other days I could conquer the world. But I just kept walking, like he said, exercising my heart.” Now he’s back on the tennis court and on the boat, fishing for fluke.
Dr. Ribakove seconded Bob’s praise for the team. “The people here are outstanding. They work together with great teamwork, always cooperating and going that extra mile.”