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Working in construction, Michael Sachell is used to lifting heavy loads and climbing flights of stairs. So in early 2017, when the 55-year-old found he could barely walk up a few steps without getting short-of-breath, he was worried.
"It just got worse and worse as time went on,” said the Lansing, Ill., resident.
Sachell decided to seek care at the University of Chicago Medicine at Ingalls Memorial Hospital, where interventional cardiologist Abed Dehnee, MD, diagnosed him with congestive heart failure and identified a blood clot in his lung.
"His heart was weakened, working at 35 percent," Dehnee said. "I reviewed his echocardiogram personally, and found he had severe leakage of the mitral valve."
Due to Sachell's congestive heart failure and a blood clot, he could not receive surgical repair for the mitral valve until his other issues were stabilized.
Dehnee instructed Sachell to begin a regimen of a blood-thinning medication and one for heart failure to help his heart cope with the mitral valve leakage. However, the valve continued to weaken, leaking blood that moved into his lungs. Sachell’s symptoms continued, and he was repeatedly admitted back into the hospital.
During an admission in November 2017, Dehnee told Sachell he was "tuned up enough" to undergo surgery.
"I was in and out of Ingalls every few months, and I got tired of that," he said. "So I said, ‘OK, sign me up.’ They were ready for me. You should have seen all the nurses and experts they sent in."
One of those experts was renowned cardiothoracic surgeon Daniel G. Ciaburri, MD. He collaborated with Dehnee on Sachell’s case in preparation for the critical two- to three- hour open heart surgery. Ciaburri said Michael’s condition was especially delicate.
"Multiple health issues combined with a weak heart muscle increased the stakes for this complex surgery," Ciaburri said. "He had class four heart failure, which is the highest. That made the surgery more risky for him."
In a community hospital setting, it is unique to have a surgeon who is skilled in mitral valve repair.
Ciaburri successfully repaired Sachell’s heart valve during the procedure. He was up and walking around two days after surgery and back home within the week.
While he recovered, Sachell said Ciaburri checked in with him over the phone several times. Sachell also followed up with Dehnee, who cautioned him to take it easy, even though he was eager to get right back to working, step-dancing and traveling.
Though he remains sore from the surgery, Sachell is recovering well. He said he feels blessed by the care he received, adding, "If I hit the lottery, I’m going to donate a couple million to Ingalls. They saved my life."
While Sachell’s condition isn’t uncommon, Dehnee said Ingalls is fortunate to have a surgeon with the expertise of Ciaburri, who recently came on board to lead the open heart, thoracic and vascular surgery program at UChicago Medicine Ingalls Memorial.
"In a community hospital setting, it is unique to have a surgeon who is skilled in mitral valve repair," Dehnee said. "It’s a very delicate valve, and the successful repair depends on surgical expertise."
At the University of Chicago Medicine, our heart surgeons are constantly refining their approach to surgery--taking steps to improve every aspect of the treatment experience for our patients.Read more about heart surgery