Matters of the Heart

Shelly Weter’s nurse practitioner in Milan, Mo., was the first to tell her she had a heart murmur. In 2008, Shelly had an echocardiogram performed at Sullivan County Memorial Hospital and was diagnosed with bicuspid aortic valve, a common congenital heart defect affecting roughly 2% of the population.

When the aortic valve doesn’t function properly, blood flow into and out of the chambers of the heart is abnormal. It forces the heart to work far harder than it should, placing individuals at high risk for heart attack, stroke, heart failure, and sudden cardiac arrest. Shelly was told that when the condition of her valve worsened, she would need to have it replaced.

Sometime later, Shelly’s cousin was diagnosed with the same condition and was referred to Mozow Zuidema, MD at Missouri Heart Center. Unlike Shelly’s heart defect, her cousin’s valve deterioration was progressing quickly. Her cousin underwent aortic valve replacement surgery at Boone Hospital in March 2022.

“I got a little bit scared because I was supposed to be keeping an eye on mine and I wasn’t,” Shelly says. “So, I went to see Dr. Zuidema, and thank God I did.”

Mozow Zuidema, MD is a Cardiologist at Missouri Heart Center.

Shelly says she hadn’t really been feeling good and had a lack of energy – both symptoms of heart dysfunction – but she thought it might have something to do with putting on some weight during the pandemic. As it turned out, she needed surgery.

On Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, Richard Mellitt, MD, a thoracic surgeon with Boone Health Heart Surgery, performed an aortic valve replacement on Shelly. During the open-heart procedure, Shelly’s faulty valve was removed and replaced with a biological valve – in her case, a cow heart valve.

Richard Mellitt is a heart and lung surgeon at Boone Health Heart Surgery.

Replacement valves can be biological – from cows, pigs, or human donors – or mechanical. Although mechanical valves may last longer, they increase the risk of blood clots, which means patients are typically required to take blood thinners throughout their lifetime.

If Shelly’s valve wears out down the road, a new one can be inserted via a transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), which is a minimally invasive procedure. Dr. Mellitt’s surgical aortic valve replacement (SAVR) has left her TAVR-ready, should she need it in the future.

Shelly was discharged on Sunday, Nov. 13, and returned home to Milan with her husband, Terry, to rest up and take it easy. She was released from follow-up care in early December 2022.

“I just cannot say enough good things about the nurses and doctors about my care,” Shelly says. “I had one nurse named Theo, who was fantastic. They all were absolutely great. Even when I was in critical care, I could not have asked for anything better.”

Shelly says she loved Dr. Zuidema, Dr. Mellitt, and their nurses, Jennifer, Lisa, and Grace. They have made her experience with Boone a believer in the hospital, and that’s a long way from where Shelly was when she was choosing a hospital for the lifesaving procedure.

Years before, Shelly had a bad experience with someone at Boone who was caring for her dad who passed away while he was there. Such a loss can make it difficult to put faith in a place with sad memories. But Shelly says she prayed about it. Now, she couldn’t be more pleased with the people and her care at Boone.

Lisa and Grace with Boone Health Heart Surgery even helped Shelly get answers to her billing questions – just another example of how Boone went above and beyond to deliver excellent patient care before, during, and after Shelly’s lifesaving procedure.

Shelly was a hairstylist for 40 years. Her finances were challenged since she couldn’t earn an income while she was recovering. Not knowing how that recovery would go, Shelly retired from her career.

“That way, I wouldn’t leave my clients hanging out there, not knowing what I was going to do, and if I was going to be able to come back or not,” Shelly says. “I didn’t want to, but I just felt like I needed to.”

These days, Shelly is focusing on getting more exercise, watching her diet, and trying to lower her stress levels. She is grateful for her new lease on life.

“If I ever know of anybody who needs to have this done or open-heart surgery, or bypass, I will talk until I’m blue in the face about going to Boone,” Shelly says. “And I already have, because I have family getting themselves checked for valve issues with Dr. Zuidema.”

When you’re dealing with matters of the heart, figuratively or literally, contentment may be all that matters.

By Michelle Terhune