Alex's Heart Surgery Story

In 1999, Alex needed surgery for his ventricular septal heart defect.  We elected non traditional surgery using an Amplatzer device. (The device was not approved by the FDA until 2007, so we traveled to Jordan for the operation, instead of having it done in the U.S.) The video below explains how the device works.

The story below was on the AGA Medical corporation's website.  (The company which made the Amplatzer Device.)

Alex was born in 1988 with a ventricular septal defect. He underwent a cardiac catherization at age two and it was determined that his pulmonary artery pressures seemed normal, so surgery wasn't required. Alex's condition was monitored with yearly echocardiograms and we barely noticed the hole in his heart except for making sure he took his amoxicillian for dental visits.

When Alex turned eight, our cardiologist mentioned that we might want to consider elective open-heart surgery before Alex hit adolescence. She explained, that while he was currently asymtomatic, his heart was working very hard and that this would impact his life expectancy.

We moved to a new town and  began seeing  doctor Mitchell  Pozner of Westwood Pediatrics, who suggested we consult with  Dr. Ziyad HijaziDr. Ziyad Hijazi before we considered surgery.  Dr. Pozner was a former student of Dr. Hijazi, and was familiar with the wonderful work that Dr. Hijazi was doing with Amplatzer devices.

Dr. Hijazi evaluated Alex in September of 1998 and found Alex's left ventricle mildly enlarged. He also found some aortic regurgitation. Dr.Hijazi suggested a follow up echocardiogram in six months before making  any decisions regarding surgery. Six months later, there was still swelling and still leakage and what was once potential elective surgery became a necessary operation.

It was at this point that that we decided to use the MSVD rather than traditional open-heart surgery. Alex's final decision was based upon reading the description of an open heart procedure on a web-site. By the time he got to number 3, "Pry open the patient's chest" he said, "Mom & Dad, no thank you to the heart surgery!"  Since the device not approved by the FDA (it was approved in 2007) we had to travel outside of the country for the operation.  In fact, Alex was only the twelfth person in the world to have surgery with this device (although a similar device was approved for  Atrial septal defects. )

The cardiologist who performed the surgery in Amman, Jordan.

We traveled to Dr. Hijazi's native Jordan for the procedure. We flew out on Easter Sunday, an auspicious beginning to a wonderful trip. We traveled with another woman from the area who was also being operated on  by Dr. Hijazi. She and her husband were terrific travel companions and became good friends. Yousef Goussous and his staff at the Queen Alia Heart Institute could not have been nicer.

Alex's VSD was corrected with the MSVD device on April 7, 1999. Forty-eight hours later, Alex was climbing Roman Ruins in Amman. While Alex's class at the Sheehan School was studying Ancient Rome, Alex was climbing the real thing. He also rode a camel and floated in the Dead Sea. (Try doing that right after open heart!) His sister, Jillian wanted to go to Jordan too, because that part sounded like fun. Alex recovered quickly, but since there were only two non-smoking flights a week, we stayed for a few extra days and traveled to Petra (just like Indiana Jones!)

Two weeks after surgery, our little local paper did an article about Alex's procedure, which appeared on page two. We were equally pleased with the article on page nineteen, crediting Alex with a soccer assist, something that never would have been possible with traditional open heart surgery.

Words cannot convey how thankful we were to Dr. Hijazi, Dr. Goussous and his staff and the people at AGA Medical for making such a wonderful device.

Thank you from the bottom of our very grateful hearts!

Brian & Tricia
Westwood, MA