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Your Healthy Family: Heart health, Colorado Springs man doesn’t ignore heart symptoms

Posted at 11:59 AM, Feb 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-06 13:59:49-05

COLORADO SPRINGS – As part of Heart Month, we’re hearing from a Colorado Springs man who went through open heart surgery a year ago.

Looking back, John Bess says, “This doesn’t happen to me.  This happens to somebody else, maybe somebody a little bit older.”

John has always led an active lifestyle with his family.  He explains, “We would always go out and do things – go skiing, go hiking, go fishing, go do something out in beautiful Colorado.”

But not too long after turning 50, John says he began to slow down.  “About June of (2017) I started noticing some chest pains, shortness of breath.  I felt like I was always tired. I couldn’t do 20 stairs in my house, I was out of breath.  Initially I was thinking ‘I’m just getting older and I need to start working out more.’ ”

John knew he’d had a heart issue from his youth but still didn’t suspect his heart was the problem.  “I’ve had a heart murmur since I was young. When I joined the Air Force at 18 they told me that.”

John feels he is alive today for many reasons, including not ignoring those early symptoms. His wife Ami is a flight nurse with UCHealth Memorial and urged him to get checked out.  Dr. Jorge Davalos, a cardiologist, and Dr. Kevin Shortt, a cardiothoracic surgeon, worked to identify John’s health issues.

Dr. Shortt recalls, “John came to me with a little bit of a confusing mixture of symptoms.  He was otherwise fairly fit. His cardiologist, Dr. Davalos,performed a stress echo to see how John’s heart functioned under stress, and his heart’s ability to function normally.  What he found was his aortic valve didn’t open completely, but it certainly didn’t close normally. The two conditions – aortic stenosis where the valve doesn’t open normally, and then to not close properly is called aortic insufficiency – he had a combination of both of those problems going on.”

The fix was open heart surgery to replace his aortic valve. The thought of surgery was sobering to John, but he felt he was in good hands.  “It’s scary because they did have to do open heart surgery. But those doctors that took the time to treat me, they would sit down with me and pull up a chair and say ‘here’s what’s going on’ you know, and and they would take their time with me.”

Coming up later as part of Heart Month, we’ll have more on John’s surgery and recovery.

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