Aortic valve replacement - Mike's story 

Mike Tennant explains what happened after he was told he needed his aortic valve repaired, and what life has been like since the operation.

"I went to see my local doctor and asked him to give me a complete overhaul. He did all the ordinary examinations – cholesterol, blood and all that sort of thing. Then he sent me for ECGs.

"Then I met Mr West, Nicholas West, the consultant. He listened to my heart and said, 'Come and see me in six months.'

"One of my hobbies is classic cars. Last August, we went to a car rally in Le Mans. The hotel lift wasn't working, so my two friends and I had to walk up two flights of stairs. I got to the top of the second flight and sat with my suitcase, puffing like an old steam train. My friends were frightened.

"Five minutes later, I was alright and able to go to the rally. But as I walked to the top of the grandstands, which must have been a good 150 steps, I had to stop several times along the way.

"The day after I got back home, I had my appointment with Mr West. That's when he sent me to have the angiogram. When we had the angiogram, the heart valves (the four in the heart) were perfectly alright, but the aorta valve, the big one, was calcifying up and getting stiffer and stiffer.

"It's like a flutter valve – it opens one way and lets the blood through, then shuts again, stopping it from flowing backwards.

"When I was first told to have the aortic replacement, I had a choice of two valves: a mechanical one, or one which I understand is a pig's valve. I decided on a metal one.

"The doctor said I then had to take warfarin every day for the rest of my life. I didn't fancy that, so I opted for the other valve. If I didn't have it done, I suppose I could die at any time. There's a 2% chance of death during the operation. But in my mind, 2% out of 100% isn't bad.

"So I decided to have it done. I came round after the operation and saw the medical team all standing there. The doctor said he didn't understand how I had been getting around as well as I was. It was one of the worst cases he'd seen.

"Next morning, I walked up two flights of stairs with the physiotherapist. The rest of the time, I sat on the bed or wandered about the ward without any trouble at all. Four days later, I was back home.

"I didn't go out much for the first couple of days, but then I'd walk up the hill to look at the horses and wander back down. Gradually, I got farther and farther afield each day, and I can walk anywhere now.

"I still puff and blow, but I keep going now, whereas before I'd puff and blow and stop. Now it's vastly different.

"After the operation, I wasn't allowed to drive for six weeks, but after six weeks I could drive with no trouble at all.

"I would say go ahead and have the operation. I wouldn't hesitate at all. It'll make you feel totally different.

"You can't really explain it, because until you've had it yourself, you suddenly realise how much you've slowed down. So, yeah, definitely go ahead.

"If somebody says have the operation, get it done as quick as you can. Don't hang around and wait. Just go in there and get it done."

Aortic valve: Mike's story

Mike Tennant, 73, explains what happened after he was told he needed his aortic valve repaired, and what life has been like since the operation.

Media last reviewed: 08/07/2015

Next review due: 08/07/2017

Page last reviewed: 15/01/2015

Next review due: 15/01/2017