INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana - Family and friends share common experiences – often together. Just ask Rebecca Curless, her daughter, Mackenzie Graft, and Rebecca's friend, Neva Stahl. The trio was diagnosed with life-threatening leaking mitral valves and turned to Dr. Marc Gerdisch and the Franciscan Health Heart Center in Indianapolis to perform their minimally invasive mitral valve surgery.
Several months ago, Rebecca, a Brown County resident, began experiencing shortness of breath that would wake her in the middle of the night. At the same time Neva's heart murmur was being monitored by cardiologist, Irwin Labin, MD, FACC, FASE, FRCPC, and he informed her it was time to have surgery. And at a distant ranch in Wyoming, Rebecca's daughter Mackenzie – a former Purdue University basketball player and endurance athlete – was beginning to struggle for breath during routine runs with friends.
All three were diagnosed with heart murmurs and life-threatening leaking mitral valves. The three turned to Marc Gerdisch, MD, FACS, FACC, chief of cardiovascular and thoracic surgery at Franciscan Health Heart Center in Indianapolis for their care. Dr. Gerdisch, who has pioneered many innovative surgical procedures, used a minimally invasive operation to reshape and repair the damaged heart valves.
"When addressing degenerative mitral valve disease, the absolute priority is to achieve an excellent repair that restores normal function to the valve," said Dr. Gerdisch. "Over several years, we refined our technique and instrumentation to perform the operation through a small incision, beneath the right breast. It includes minimizing tissue trauma and dramatically reducing discomfort. Now, people are back to normal activity in as little as a couple of weeks."
Dr. Gerdisch has earned an international reputation for heart valve surgery techniques, heart tissue regeneration, and surgical correction of atrial fibrillation. His practice focuses on heart valve disease and spans from single valve repair to complex multi-valve reoperations. He has served as a lead investigator on several multi-center clinical trials involving next generation valve technology, atrial fibrillation and tissue regeneration. Dr. Gerdisch has played an active role in medical device innovation, particularly in the area of heart valves. Procedures he and his team have pioneered and perfected draw patients throughout the United States.
Dr. Gerdisch credits patients who "do their research" which, ultimately, leads many to entrust their care to the Heart Center at Franciscan Health Indianapolis. "It's not only the surgery that makes the difference. Our team includes superb cardiologists, nurses and therapists, working toward a common goal of excellence and delivering both compassion and innovation," Dr. Gerdisch added.
That's what Rebecca and Neva did. The two friends opted to schedule their minimally invasive mitral valve repair with Dr. Gerdisch and his team on the same day, virtually back to back. Their surgeries occurred a few days before Christmas 2016. "It was fun knowing that I had a friend to go through the same surgery," Rebecca said.
As 2017 unfolded, Mackenzie had a decision to make. Knowing the results of her mother's and Neva's experience, she booked a flight to Indianapolis, kissed her husband and children, and told them "I'll see you in a couple weeks."
On the proverbial day of hearts – February 15 – Mackenzie underwent the minimally invasive procedure to repair her own damaged heart valve. By month's end, she was back at her Wyoming ranch.