No high resolution image exists...
Since her twenties, Linda felt like she had the word "smoker" tattooed on her forehead whenever she'd see a doctor. Her symptoms – shortness of breath, dizziness, fatigue – were always chalked up to her smoking habit. "Of course, I knew that my smoking contributed to my symptoms, but I wished I had a doctor who would be proactive about my health, even though I'm a smoker," she said.
As Linda got older, she became increasingly concerned about her health. “I was diagnosed with mitral valve prolapse,” she said. “It’s a common condition that explained a lot of my symptoms. But I found out later that was a misdiagnosis – my condition was much worse.” Around her 50th birthday, suspected she may have a lung condition. She learned of a clinical study focusing on early detection of lung cancer. Since Linda had received only minor diagnostic examination from any of her physicians, she signed up for the study.
Those running the study were extremely concerned for Linda's health when they received the results of her first body scan. They suspected aortic stenosis – a condition in which the aortic valve does not function properly. After sharing this news with her primary care physician and asking to see a specialist, Linda's doctor referred her to the Sutter Heart & Vascular Institute at Sutter Medical Center in Sacramento for more testing.
"As soon as I got there, I felt like I was in good hands," Linda said. "Even the tech who did my test was very friendly, we had a great conversation." After her first test, the tech brought in Dr. Edmond Lee, a cardiologist, to look at Linda's results. "I knew my results didn't look good," she said. "Dr. Lee grilled me with all sorts of questions about my symptoms and my lifestyle. I was grateful – finally, a doctor who really cared," she said. “He even drew a little sketch to explain what was going on with my heart!”
Within a week, Linda was scheduled for heart surgery with Dr. Michael Ingram, cardiovascular surgeon with the Sutter Heart & Vascular Institute. "Dr. Ingram was incredible," she said. "At my pre-op appointment, he invited my dad, my sister and my fiancé to talk about my situation with him. He was very accommodating." Linda also gained a little redemption when Dr. Ingram confirmed what she had expected all along: that her health problems did not stem from her smoking habit alone. "Dr. Ingram said that the smoking may have exacerbated my symptoms, but that I was born with a faulty heart valve."
Dr. Ingram successfully replaced her heart valve using minimally invasive valve replacement surgery. "My scar is technically four inches long, but you can really only see one inch of it," said Linda, who is extremely grateful to her surgeon. "I can't say enough about Dr. Ingram and his staff. They are wonderful people who really care about their patients."
As part of her post-operative treatment, Linda participates in cardiac rehabilitation at Sutter Roseville Medical Center. "I can now do 30 minutes on the treadmill and 20 minutes on the bike," she says proudly. "I feel so much better." In addition to her physical symptoms, Linda claims that her mental aptitude improved after the surgery. "I don't know why, maybe more blood is running to my head," she laughed. "My memory is better. I'm not foggy-headed anymore, I'm awake and alert!"
Life today is much better for Linda. “For most of my life, my symptoms were dismissed or misinterpreted by other doctors. I’m really lucky the doctors at Sutter Heart & Vascular Institute figured out what was wrong with me. If it weren’t for them, I probably would not be here today.”