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Kerri's Story
Kerri's Story

I had my surgery on the 29th of July 2015.


I was admitted to the hospital on the 16th of June because of a heart failure. I was 36.


I felt unwell for around five years, but I was always short of breath and was told that I had asthma. I was unable to sleep lying flat the previous year.

I changed my GP and it was her who heard a heart murmur. She put a referral to the hospital, and I was placed on a waitlist. She did warn me that if my legs swelled I should go to the hospital.


Around May 2015 my feet started swelling, and I always felt tired. I would come home from work, sleep, and put my feet up. The swelling would go down, so I assumed that maybe I just had a virus. At that stage, my husband and then 8-year-old son would do the groceries and help tidy up the house.

I kept thinking, ‘What is wrong with me?’

I had been put on Prednisone to try to clear up my cough years before as I was out of breath all the time. I felt like I had anxiety because I feared to go anywhere that had stairs.

On the 15th of June, my family and I went out for dinner for my niece's birthday. When I got home, my feet and legs were so swollen that you could push them with your finger and they would stay indented for minutes. I thought I’d sleep on it and see what the morning would be like.

I had been sleeping on the couch for the past six months as I couldn't lie flat. I woke up the next day, and my feet and legs were still swollen, so off to the hospital, I went. When in ED I  was told I was in heart failure, which was a great shock as that was the last thing I would have thought it having to do with my heart.  

My story feels really long but all this happened over six weeks. One week in Rotorua hospital. One week in Waikato for test angioplasty, ECG (electrocardiogram) and TOE (trans-oesophageal echocardiogram). I was diagnosed with mitral stenosis where the valve was not wide enough to push the blood, and tricuspid regurgitation which in non-doctor terms means the valve wasn't closing properly causing the blood was regurgitating back the other way.

I was sent home for two weeks. I honestly felt better after losing 10kg in fluid which let me breathe much easier. I had to wait for a surgery date to have an overnight procedure called valvuloplasty, which is where they put a balloon into the valve to help open it.  I was booked for on the 21st of July.

That didn’t work out according to plan.

The valve split during the ballooning, which made the valve unable to open and close which made things worse. So I was monitored in the CCU.

On the 29th of July, I had my open heart surgery where I had my mitral valve and tricuspid replaced with porcine valves. I was good for a few days then I was told I had a third-degree heart block.

On the 8th of August I had a pacemaker inserted. I was 100 per cent dependent on this when I left the hospital two days later.

The pain was unbearable.

I couldn’t handle the incision, so I would go to my GP nurse to change the dressings as I was so paranoid about getting an infection and ending up back in hospital.

For my first pacemaker, I was told three months later that I was only 80 per cent dependent on it.

When I saw my cardiologist four months later, he said he wouldn't need to follow up with me until my three-year anniversary of the surgery.  My last pacemaker appointment was three months ago when I was told I’m only 3 per cent dependent, so the follow up for that went from 3 monthly to yearly.

I feel so much better.

I can actually do fun things with my son now. Oh, except ride roller coasters or other fun park rides that have signs that stop those with heart conditions and pacemakers from riding.

I can go walking but not quite running yet (but I know I can try this and only get better at it).

I never knew that The Heart Trust was here  which I found while on Facebook while looking for places that I could see how other people were coping and if they had the same things happening to them as I have.  I love to see the post every now and then with how new and advanced heart procedures are getting and hopefully by the time I need to get my valves replaced would hopefully be by then a keyhole surgery .