Under the Knife

This Friday, Gear West Bike and Tri’s own Trent Schoeder is having heart surgery to repair a leaky valve.   Trent has been with Gear West Bike and Tri for almost 5 years and has worn many hats:  Salesperson, Gear West Duathlon race director, website/marketing guru, official bike@gearwestbike.com responder, etc…     We wanted to ask Trent a few questions regarding his operation on behalf of all those interested. 

Gear West Bike and Tri's Trent goes in for heart surgery this Friday.
 CW: So Trent, tell me how you found out about your heart problem.
TS: I went in for a physical back in Nov. of 2007, and my doctor pointed out that I had a heart murmur. It was news to me, and he sent me in for a stress echo, where they studied my heart while it was “working” under duress. They told me then that I had mitral valve prolapse, and that we would have to watch it. I had another echo cardiogram in November of 2009 to take another look, and at that time my doctor and a cardiologist at the U deemed the valve bad enough that I should have it really looked at by a cardiologist.

So, after meeting with a cardiologist and surgeon at the U (who said I need to have surgery–shocking to me) I went to the Mpls Heart Institute to meet with another cardiologist for a second opinion–even though I didn’t doubt the first diagnosis. And away we went.

CW: So explain what exactly is going on in your heart, and why my heart is better? 

TS: As I understand it, the mitral valve in my left ventricle had essentially deteriorated to the point that my heart is starting to enlarge. The valve is not closing properly, which is sending blood back through the left side of my heart, so the heart has to work extra hard to re-pump that blood back through. Most people have a tiny bit of leakage back through, as the valve does not close entirely, but I’m told that on a scale of 1-4, 4 being the worst, my heart is more like a 4. The only reason they do surgery is 1) symptoms–shortness of breath, pain, etc, which I have never experienced (that I know of) and 2) if the heart starts to enlarge. So, I’m going under the knife. Your heart is better because it does not leak to the point that your heart has to work harder. I really have no idea how long this has been going on, but my current surgeon at the Mpls Heart Institute recently told me that it has definitely been going on a lot longer that we think. (I don’t really know what that means).

The mitral valve separates the two chambers (atrium and ventricle) of the left side of the heart. In mitral valve prolapse, the leaflets of the mitral valve bulge (prolapse) into the left atrium like a parachute during the heart's contraction. Thus, some blood may leak back into the atrium from the ventricle. (Courtesy of the Mayo Clinic)

CW: Is there anything that you know of that could have prevented this?
TS: Nothing at all, it just happens.

CW: Explain your decision for surgery and surgical options (you’re going with pig valve vs. bionic valve right?).   Is it 100% necessary?  And what is the procedure like?
TS: As I’m told by my sister-in-law (who works at Abbot Northwestern where I’m having surgery), right now this is a fixable issue. In ten years, it may not be fixable. I need to have it fixed so my heart does not fail on me. I really don’t want that to happen….HA. I would say that, yes for me surgery is 100% neccessary. I’m relatively young (41), and I want to continue running, biking and swimming–and I still haven’t done some things I want to do with respect to Tri and running.  I have two choices for surgery–open heart (which I am choosing), or a less invasive procedure where they would go through my right chest and do the repair robotically. My surgeon prefers the open heart approach so he can really see what is going on and repair it. The plan is to fix the problem rather than replace. The surgeon is very confident that he can repair the valve and I’ll be good as new. I also have the option to (only if needed) replace the valve with either a mechanical valve or an animal valve. I haven’t decided what I will choose, although I am leaning toward animal. (However, on a comedic note, I’m a vegetarian for moral issues, and choosing animal is something I’m truly thinking over.) But the animal version has less problematic after-shocks–namely that with a mechanical I would have to be on blood thinners for the rest of my life. My father-in-law and a few uncles and aunts say that is a terrible thing, so…

 CW: What are the related risks of surgery?   Do they have success rate type stats for this surgery?
TS: The risks are the same as with any major surgery–infection afterwards, blah, blah. I’m told there is around a 2% chance of not making it through the procedure, but that is something I try NOT to think about. The success rate is extremely high for this procedure.

CW: What’s the recovery like? 
TS: I will have around 5 days in the hospital after the procedure, and approximately 6 weeks of recovery at home. I can’t lift anything over 20 lbs (so neither of my boys…that will be very hard) and no driving, etc. until I’m ready to be back. It will be hard with 2 children, but we have good support, and Kevin and everyone here at Gear West Bike have been, simply put–amazing. I’ll be leaving them understaffed at a pretty busy time of year. So, thanks to Kevin and staff.

CW: Are you scared? 
TS: Honestly, I am pretty scared. It’s probably not cool to say that, but I can’t lie about how I’m feeling. I’ll say this–I’m very nervous, but extremely confident. The team at the Mpls Heart Institute is simply amazing, and I have every reason to believe that they will do everything right. But, I do think about being open on the table like I will be. I haven’t been sleeping very well. It will all be great.

CW: So honestly, with the much improved heart efficiency you’ll after the surgery, how many triathlons & time trials are you expecting to win this year? 
TS: One of the first things I did after finding out–besides telling Kevin, was to tell David Thompson to look out next year–I’m coming for him! That is a huge joke. I have differing opinions as to what my heart will do after the surgery. The first surgeon said I would notice a huge difference, and my current surgeon says I probably won’t notice too much of a change. I’m hoping for a little extra something–I need it.

CW: Anything else you’d like to add? 
TS: Thanks to the people who have offered up their services to Emily (my wife) and my boys–it will be hardest for them. All I have to do is heal.

Thanks dude.

5 thoughts on “Under the Knife

  1. Trent, glad to hear you are taking care of this issue when you are young and in such good health. Best of luck with a speedy recovery! I’ll be thinking about you. Todd

  2. I wish you all the best Trent. I hope you have a resilient recovery and your procedure goes as smoothly as possible. I’ll keep you and yours in my thoughts. Gook luck.


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