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Wholehearted –

Plymouth Meeting man embraces life after valve replacement

John Ortiz, 63, is the kind of person who gives 110% to everything he does. “My family tells me I’m a bit of a workaholic,” he says. But this owner of a Philadelphia manufacturing business “really enjoys every aspect of running the business.”

John Ortiz

John was born with a defective aortic valve. “It’s never slowed me down or caused a problem,” he says. “I was even drafted for Vietnam despite the defect.”

It wasn’t until he sought to have a routine colonoscopy in his early 50’s that his physician insisted he consult Abington Memorial Hospital Cardiologist Manoj R. Muttreja, M.D. After a thorough examination, John was cleared for the screening. As part of his ongoing monitoring, he also regularly visited Dr. Muttreja, and had echocardiograms and EKGs.

Recently, John suffered a few bouts of dizziness and shortness of breath. Dr. Muttreja believed his valve was beginning to deteriorate, and referred him to Rohinton J. Morris, M.D. Dr. Morris is chief of Abington’s Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery and one of the leading heart valve specialists in the region.

Dr. Morris explains, “John is the kind of person that aortic valve replacement really benefits, because he’s motivated to continue his active, healthy life. He wanted a minimally invasive incision that would allow him to recover quickly.”

John and his wife, Janet, sat down with Dr. Morris to explore all the options. “Dr. Morris took all the time in the world with us,” John adds. “We discussed what would be best for my lifestyle – a mechanical or a tissue valve.”

Dr. Morris emphasizes, “This is one of many important points about valve surgery at Abington Memorial Hospital. We engage the patient in making the best decision for him or her. In many programs, the doctor makes the decision without discussing choices with patients and their family members.”

On February 24, 2011, John underwent the surgery. Dr. Morris and the cardiothoracic team placed him on a heart-lung machine for about 45 minutes while he removed John’s diseased valve and delicately replaced it with a tissue valve. The entire surgery lasted about three hours.

John was amazed to be sitting up within 24 hours talking with visitors. The next day, Dr. Morris brought the whole cardiothoracic team in to meet him. “I was so impressed. Where else do you find that kind of personal attention?”

“I think it’s really important to bring the team on rounds with me,” Dr. Morris says. “We have a tremendous synergy in the operating suite. It’s great for everyone to see how their contributions come together to help the patient progress so quickly.”

“There aren’t enough kind words to say about the whole team,” John says. “I was home in six days, enjoying time with my wife, my kids and my grandchildren. In seven weeks, I was back on the job.”

John thought his photo for this story should be of the “slimmest chest incision ever,” but we opted to go with his smiling face. “I’m living proof of a heart made whole again,” he says.

For more information about cardiac surgery and all services of The Pilla Heart Center, call 215-481-MEDI (6334).

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