Cathy’s Story: MedicAlert, Mitral Valve Prolapse and Me

Meet MedicAlert Member Cathy, age 56. Cathy has mitral valve prolapse, and despite it being a life-long disorder, many people with the condition never experience symptoms and are often surprised when they learn they have a heart condition. Not all heart diseases are the same. Different types of disease affect different parts of the heart and some require very particular medications that can carry dangerous side effects.  Like Cathy, she must take Coumadin – a blood thinner – for the rest of her life due to her heart disease. Coumadin helps prevent clots from forming in the blood and helps to keep blood flowing smoothly throughout the body. It can also cause a dangerous bleeding event due to a medical procedure, an unexpected injury or other emergency. For those reasons, Cathy wears her MedicAlert ID bracelet to alert emergency medical providers to her cardiac condition and her medications.

Here is Cathy’s story: 

On February 3, 2002 I watched the New England Patriots defeat the heavily favored Rams – 20-17, clinching their first Super Bowl Championship. It was a sweet victory, and I savored the moment knowing that the next day I’d be heading to Massachusetts General Hospital for a TEE –  a transesophageal echocardiogram along with an angioplasty. My cardiologist wanted to evaluate my heart and surrounding structures – they needed to see my leaky valve to determine it’s efficacy. I live with mitral valve prolapse (MVP) a condition where the heart’s mitral valve – which controls blood flow between the upper and lower chambers of the left side of the heart – doesn’t work the way it should. Many people with this disorder have no symptoms and their health isn’t adversely affected. But in other patients with MVP, blood can flow backward through the faulty mitral valve with each heartbeat. This is called regurgitation. Over years, mitral regurgitation can cause weakness of the heart muscle, known as congestive heart failure and can also cause heart attacks and strokes.

In my case, the TEE showed that my mitral valve was so damaged that it had to be replaced. I wound up in surgery the very next day. Fortunately, everything went well. When I was ready to be discharged and getting the rundown on my medications, I found out that I would be on Coumadin for the rest of my life. During my discharge my doctors advised that I should get a MedicAlert ID bracelet, so that first responders would know at one glance that I was on blood thinner medication. To be honest, I’d always thought that MedicAlert bracelets were for diabetics. I’ve since learned that the bracelets are worn by so many people with a wide range of medical conditions. 18 years later, and I still wear my bracelet 24-hours a day, 7 days a week. I am grateful that I’ve never had a medical emergency, but I will continue to wear my MedicAlert ID and will always keep my MedicAlert membership up to date. I also like to treat myself to a new bracelet every few years – I like to freshen up my look! For me, my MedicAlert ID and membership give me peace of mind – I love knowing that I have a safety net should I ever need one.