Sunday, August 7, 2011

Phill Michael - Mountain Climber Born with Bicuspid Aortic Valve - Dies

Infection presents particular risks for those born with bicuspid aortic valves. I remember being cautioned years go, when my husband's BAV was diagnosed and replaced, that at the sign of any fever we were to contact our doctor. Why? Because of the risk of infection to the heart - the medical term is endocarditis.

I remembered that today, as I read about a strong, vibrant man - Phill Michael - born with a bicuspid aortic valve. According to the press account, his BAV was replaced at the age of 32. He died July 30, 2011, at age 40, because of infection.

His friend, Chris Stanko, described what happened here: In Loving Memory: Phill Michael - 1970 - 2011 - an open wound, infection lodging in his heart, then reaching his brain. Doctors wrote about endocarditis long before there were any antibiotics to treat it. It is sobering that today, despite powerful medications, lives are still lost.

Phil's blog is a wonderful sharing of his life - scrolling down on the left, I found his Tears of Joy  about his BAV replacement experience.

Those with BAV are often described as active and athletic - and it is very true. Looking at the pictures on Phill's blog, I am reminded of all the others with BAV I know - exceptional athletes in their chosen sports and activities. They are generally healthy and very high energy, but they have a defect - a "fish-mouth" valve in their  heart - that makes them vulnerable to infection (before and after valve replacement), to heart valve failure, to aneurysms (aortic and brain).

Every time I learn of a loss such as this, I know there is much more to be done. At the Foundation, we invite you to join us in pressing for a better day for those with BAV, when the lives of these special people are no longer at risk.

My deepest sympathy to all who knew and loved Phill; it is clear as I read about him that he truly had a special heart.

Arlys Velebir
President and Chairman
Bicuspid Aortic Foundation


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