Debbie DiStefano — UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute Patient Story
The Challenge: Mitral Valve Prolapse
As a restaurant owner and active grandma, Debbie DiStefano thrives on staying busy.
Although diagnosed with a heart condition called mitral valve prolapse in 2005, Debbie was told that there was no immediate cause for concern.
When she began feeling worse and worse, Debbie realized that it was not just old age catching up with her. There was something wrong.
The Path to UPMC
Debbie was referred to Vinay Badhwar, MD, at UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute in 2012.
Her chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, fatigue, and nighttime leg cramps were signs that her valve was leaking and part of her heart was enlarged.
Debbie’s damaged mitral valve was letting blood leak backward into the heart. Over time, a weakened heart can lead to heart failure.
As Debbie puts it:
“I didn’t want to wait to feel better. I wanted to enjoy life as much as possible while I was young, and not feel sick every day.”
The Solution: Valve Replacement Surgery
In October 2012, Debbie underwent minimally invasive surgery to repair her mitral valve.
“With Dr. Badhwar, I felt so comfortable because he teaches minimally invasive surgery. He instilled confidence in me that he could heal my heart,” she says.
Debbie’s recovery was short — she was soon cooking Thanksgiving dinner and back to watching her grand kids, Morgan and Meredyth.
She and her family enjoyed their yearly holiday trip to Pittsburgh's Strip District and cooking the feast of the seven fishes.
Thanks to Dr. Badhwar and other experts at the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute, she didn’t miss a beat.
Debbie and her husband, Randy, are the owners of the Kopper Kettle Tavern in Washington, Pa.
» Mitral valve prolapse — learn more in our Health Library.
» Read stories from other UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute patients like Debbie.