“There is nothing better than receiving patient success stories from my readers,” notes Adam Pick, founder of The Patient’s Guide To Heart Valve Surgery, an interactive website, blog and book for patients needing heart valve surgery.
“I never expected to be helping so many patients from so many countries,” Pick stated, “Who would have thought my own heart valve surgery would turn into something this rewarding, this touching and this fun?”
Heart valve surgery was not always considered ‘fun’ for the Los Angeles native and resident. After Pick was diagnosed with severe aortic stenosis in 2005, the thirty-six year old, high technology consultant, found himself flat an operating table at USC Medical Center under the care of valve surgeon guru, Dr. Vaughn Starnes.
Shortly after his double heart valve replacement surgery, Pick became familiar with many of the unexpected challenges and pitfalls that negatively impact cardiac surgery patients in recovery. A self-proclaimed optimist prior to surgery, Pick experienced a prolonged recovery filled with physical discomfort, a pain pill addiction and, worst of all, cardiac depression.
“I was a mess after my heart valve surgery,” Pick remembers, “I was addicted to Vicodin. I was depressed. I was crying all the time. I didn’t know what to do. My cardiologist and my surgeon told me the heart was doing great. But, I was distraught and confused.”
At the suggestion of his pain management specialist, Dr. Robert Swift, Pick entered weekly, individual therapy.
“I remember asking my therapist, ‘Why isn’t there a book or something to help heart valve patients through this?’”, Pick continued, “The doctors and nurses are so busy. Patients need to know the realities of heart valve surgery – from diagnosis through recovery.”
At that moment, Pick’s therapist had an epiphany.
“I’ll never forget that moment!” Pick said with a smile, “My therapist looked at me and said, ‘Why don’t you do it? Why don’t you help all the future patients and caregivers out there?’”
The rest is history, according to Pick.
The next day, Pick registered the domain name www.Heart-Valve-Surgery.com. He then spent the next eight months researching heart valves and patient experiences relative to heart valve repair and replacement operations. Pick even launched and completed his own online survey with 78 patients to better understand the patient perspective – both before and after heart valve surgery.
Today, Pick’s book is read in over 50 countries around the world. Leading surgeons and heart valve care centers, including The Cleveland Clinic, use Pick’s book to help prepare both patients and their caregivers for cardiac surgery. To some extent, Pick’s blog has become the ‘Dear Abby’ column for the online heart valve community.
“Many patients are benefitting from Adam’s work,” notes Dr. Vincent Gaudiani, Senior Cardiac Surgeon, Pacific Coast Cardiac & Vascular Surgeons. Over the past 25 years,
Dr. Gaudiani has performed over 10,000 operations.
“There is no way to express how extraordinary this feels,” Pick said, “I have a new mission in life these days. My goal is to help other patients turn their heart valve lemons into heart valve lemonade.”