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Published on August 14, 2013

Harry Gordon & Mitral Valve Surgery


Harry Gordon
Patient: Harry Gordon, Garrett Park, MD

Location: Adventist HealthCare Washington Adventist Hospital

Service: Mitral Valve Surgery

Doctor: Paul Massimiano, MD

Harry Gordon, 63, of Garrett Park, spends most days designing structures alongside his daughter, Caitlin. But when it came to the shape of his heart, he had to add a different type of architect to his team.

Gordon was diagnosed with mitral valve prolapse about 30 years ago, a disease in which the heart valve leaflets become abnormal and stretchy. As a result, the tissue is unable to close properly, causing the valve to leak.

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Well, I always wanted to be an architect from the time when I was a little boy. I was one of those people who was lucky because I always knew that I wanted to be an architect.

I followed in Dad's footsteps, really, because it was so natural for me to just do architecture after growing up with Dad.

In some sense Caitlin maybe didn't have much of a chance because she grew up in a household where architecture was one of the topics of conversation. What's been really interesting is the collaboration that we've been able to build together.

Well, I had known that I had mitral valve prolapse for a long time. It was diagnosed when I was in my thirties. But as I've grown older the condition didn't stay stable and it became clear that eventually I was going to have to have surgery to repair the mitral valve in order that my heart would be stronger.

You never want to hear that your parent has to have heart surgery in any way, even if it is minimally invasive, but Dad had confidence in the team that was going to do surgery on him. And when I was in the hospital with him leading up to his surgery everyone was very supportive of us coming in, and they'd answer any questions that we had, and it was very comfortable to be in a hospital about to have heart surgery. It was frightening, but it's life you have to take it as it comes at you.

The first consideration for Mr.Gordon is whether he needed surgery in the first place. And after reviewing his echo it was clear to me that the amount of leak was such that without surgery he would continue to have shortness of breath with exercise, and over a period of time might develop congestive heart failure. And in his case a mitral valve repair, through a minimally invasive approach, was a very good option.

Mr. Gordon's surgery involved a series of steps. The first step is to make a two-inch incision in the chest wall, and that's the incision to access the heart and to access the valve. The next step is to put the patient on the heart–lung machine, because if we're operating on the heart and repairing a valve we have to stop the heart while we're doing that. After stopping the heart we can make an incision in the heart, we can assess the valve, and then repair the damaged leaflets. And then at the end of that, we can take the patient off the heart–lung machine, and we close that little incision, and everyone is happy.

The mitral valve repair, we take a valve where the structural elements are damaged, and we put in new elements and that involves materials, it involves considerations of strength, and tension, and geometry, and these are all factors that Mr. Gordon had a real keen sense of.

Dad has been very eager to be back on his feet, so my job was really to help him get there. He would always want to go on walks, and I would just be there to be with him and make sure everything went as he wanted to. We would stop at the stop sign, and just talk about architecture. When he had to take a breather, it was just a progressive sort of go further, take fewer breaks, and just keep on going and just always be there for him because, really, that's all you can do when you're supporting your family members.

My experience at Washington Adventist Hospital was really terrific. I mean if you have to have heart surgery that's a really good place to do it. At every level I felt that there was a care and concern for the patient, so that whole experience from the patient perspective was, for me, very comforting and encouraging because I felt like people there cared about what they did and cared about their patients.

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