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Colleen Shirey: Mitral Valve Prolapse

HVI patient Collen Shirey | Robotic-assisted Valve Repair Patient Story

The Challenge: Dizziness and Fainting

As a school teacher and avid salsa dancer and instructor, Colleen Shirey leads a very active lifestyle. One day, while preparing for a charity dance competition, Colleen began feeling dizzy and fainted.

She went to her doctor because she already knew that she had mitral valve prolapse. When the mitral valve prolapses and leaks, blood flows backwards into the heart and weakens it. Over time, this can lead to heart failure.

The Path to UPMC’s Heart and Vascular Institute

Over time, her symptoms got progressively worse. After undergoing some tests, Colleen found out that she had severe leakage of her mitral valve and a new anemia.

After numerous tests and a stint in the hospital, her doctor determined that she had developed an infection from a dental problem and that the infection spread through her body and settled on her mitral valve. There was enough leakage that her doctor was concerned about her heart valve and recommended she see a valve specialist.

Colleen was referred to a heart surgeon at the Center for Mitral Valve Disease at the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute. Her surgeon determined that Colleen’s heart valve needed to be repaired and discussed minimally invasive robotic-assisted surgery with her.

“When I first found out that I needed to have surgery, I was scared to death,” Colleen says. “But after meeting with the team at the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute, I knew I was in good hands; I felt so fortunate to be in Pittsburgh.”

The Solution: Minimally Invasive Robotic-Assisted Surgery

Colleen underwent minimally invasive robotic-assisted surgery to repair her mitral valve. Instead of an incision in front of her chest and through her breastbone, her operation was performed through a tiny incision on the right side of her chest and through her rib spaces and facilitated by robotic arms.

She recovered quickly, and just five weeks after her surgery, she was able to return to her passion of salsa dancing.

“That was a big incentive for me,” she says. “I couldn’t stand being sick; not being able to dance, or to teach people to dance.”

Since her surgery, Colleen is much more appreciative of the little things in life.

“This whole experience has made me more appreciative of good health, how important it is, and how easily it can slip out of your hands,” she says.

As someone who has always been active, Colleen urges others to listen to what their bodies tell them. She says if something doesn’t feel right, don’t wait to see a doctor.

Colleen and her husband Jeff reside in the South Hills. They teach salsa dancing lessons to people of all ages and experience levels and host salsa dancing events in the Pittsburgh area.

Colleen's treatment and results may not be representative of similar cases.

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