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On Anzac Day 2009, Cheryl Baume was diagnosed with ‘pulmonary oedema’. In recent years, what was thought to be ‘asthma’ had her gasping for breath and urgently calling the ambulance.
On going to a heart specialist, the mild heart murmur she had for years was re-diagnosed as much more acute. By mid 2010, after another echo cardiogram, her heart specialist surprised her by suggesting it was time to consult a heart surgeon. She was referred to Professor Paul Bannon.
“We were even more surprised upon meeting Professor Bannon that he recommended I have an aortic heart valve replacement in a couple of weeks. Once we got over the shock, we decided ‘why not’ as by then I was exhausted after even mild activity.”
On 1 July 2010, Cheryl had the operation. During the surgery it was apparent Cheryl had a lot of calcification around her heart which hadn’t shown up in the angiogram. Her family was told of the possibility that a piece of this may have dislodged during the operation so there was a risk of stroke – nothing would be clear until she woke up.
“You can imagine the stress my family went through waiting for hours for me to wake up. Meantime, unaware of this I woke up, relieved I had survived and thrilled it was over. After a few days, when it was obvious all was well, the doctors explained to me their initial fears.”
Currently, research is being undertaken into less intrusive methods of operating – one way currently being explored is to insert the new heart valve through the heart wall and inside the existing valve.
“Hopefully in 15 years when I need a new valve, they’ll use this technique with no concerns for my dodgy veins and calcified arteries. Isn’t research wonderful!”
“Now, so many months after the surgery, I can’t believe how differently I feel and the number of friends who have commented on my better appearance and healthy glow!”