My name is Mischel Satunas, I am a three-time open heart surgery survivor.
I was born with a functional heart murmur, and have been symptomatic my entire life. After visiting a cardiologist at the age of 21, I was diagnosed with mitral valve prolapse, but had no idea what this diagnosis actually meant for me, so I went about living my life.
Over time my symptoms worsened. I had dizziness, shortness of breath and palpitations. When I mentioned my symptoms to my doctor , I was told I had anxiety and given anxiety meds.
I lived a very active lifestyle, and enjoyed riding my bike and going to the gym with my husband. Suddenly, I was struggling to walk a flight of stairs. At age 38, during a routine annual exam, with my Gynecologist, my life would change! He placed the stethoscope to my chest and became alarmed. He immediately sent me to a cardiologist to have an
Echo cardiogram. The cardiologist read the results and informed me that I needed Open Heart surgery! He immediately sent me to see a Heart Surgeon.
I was shocked, but scheduled my surgery . Afterwards, I didn’t feel well, and still had difficulty with breathing and activity. When I visited my doctor and told him my symptoms, he prescribed me anti-anxiety medication, but I knew in my gut something wasn't right. My symptoms continued to worsen. Six months later, my husband and I relocated to Nashville, and I was still struggling with cardiac issues. After several months of seeing many doctors, I saw a cardiologist who took me seriosly! He did some tests and told me,
"Mischel, the ring used in your mitral valve repair has come out of place and is now an obstruction. You need to have another surgery immediately to correct it." I was insistent on having the surgery in New York, so I could be near my family. My husband and I moved back, and my second surgery was scheduled just a few days later. During the second surgery, my surgeon replaced my mitral valve ring used in the first surgery with a bioprosthetic valve. I saw improvement immediately after the surgery, but sadly... after a few months, all of my previous symptoms returned, and grew even worse. I visited doctors, knowing that something was still wrong. Doctors were unable to diagnose me, and instead, I was prescribed dose after dose of anti-anxiety medication. This continued for the next ten years. The more cardiac symptoms i reported , the more anxiety medication I was given. I was told to see a therapist and that my heart was FINE!
This was the same in every state I lived in. Tennessee, New York, and Pennsylvania.
In the fall of 2011, I found myself remarkably sicker than I had ever been. The day after visiting the emergency room, I tried getting out of bed. I was so sick and so weak that I fell to the floor. My husband rushed to check on me, and discovered that my entire abdomen was purple from the blood pooling in my abdomen. I was shaking and could barely breathe. My heart rate and blood pressure were very low.
My husband called 911 and I headed back to the ER. This would be my 4th visit in 4 weeks. They did the normal cardiac work up, chest X-rays, blood work. Then a doctor walked in with a script for anxiety meds and my discharge papers.
I said a prayer to GOD and I GOT ANGRY! I told the doctor I wasn't leaving! I asked him to find someone to take another look as I was sure I was DYING! I I explained to him what happened to me in Nashville and how my first heart surgery had FAILED!
Upon being re-evaluated, I was admitted immediately for surgery and we discovered that I was in end stage - heart failure!!!
My surgeon replaced my faulty mitral valve with an On-X Mitral valve, repaired my tricusid valve and performed a Maze procedure to fix my abnormal heartbeat.
Since having my new On-X valve, I am back to riding my bike , dancing and leading a more active life style. I happily lunge up the stairs, after spending so many years barely unable to walk them. I am heavily involved in my community and volunteer with the American Heart Association,
Autism Awareness groups and a local cancer foundation. I have been a volunteer at the very same hospital that saved my life, which has been a true blessing.
I am so grateful for the gift of my life, and to be here with the people I love! This valve saved my life and it gave me a better quality of life than I had.
October 7th 2017, I will celebrate the sixth anniversary of this incredible miracle. The Gift of my life!