Pulmonary Valve Replacement: Transferring to Adult Care

Andrew SawyerWhen Andrew Sawyer was born in 1985, he was diagnosed with pulmonary atresia, a condition in which the pulmonary valve is absent, thereby preventing the normal flow of blood from the heart to the lungs to be replenished with oxygen. He was immediately transported to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston, where Willis Williams, MD, performed three open-heart operations in 36 hours to correct his condition. Sawyer underwent three additional operations at Egleston over the years to correct ongoing issues with the replacement valve he received as an infant.

In fall of 2009, during a routine visit with Wendy Book, MD, the Emory Adult Congenital Heart Center’s (EACH’s) medical director, Sawyer learned that his prosthetic pulmonary valve was damaged and would need to be replaced. Because of his age and particular condition, Dr. Book and cardiologist Michael McConnell, MD, recommended that the procedure be performed at Emory University Hospital by Brian Kogon, MD, a cardiothoracic surgeon specializing in adults with congenital heart defects.

Sawyer first met with Dr. Kogon, EACH’s surgical director, in November of 2009. During the initial consultation, Dr. Kogon explained the operation to replace Sawyer’s damaged pulmonary valve and why the procedure was necessary.

Despite the fact that he required another open-heart procedure, Sawyer was put at ease by the meeting with Dr. Kogon: “The professionalism that he displayed helped me and my family make decisions concerning the operation. Dr. Kogon was clear about the techniques and procedures he would use and took plenty of time to answer the many questions I had about the procedure and subsequent recovery.” Following the consultation, he scheduled his pulmonary valve replacement surgery for January.

Sawyer’s sixth open-heart procedure was a success, and he now has a fully operable prosthetic valved conduit constructed of bovine jugular tissue. Following a 30-day recovery, Sawyer returned to Athens, where he is currently a graduate student at the University of Georgia as well as a musician and songwriter.

“In addition to the superior care I received, I was impressed with the service provided by Dr. Kogon and the entire Adult Congenital Heart team. Even months after the operation, Dr. Kogon stopped by the clinic to visit me during a check-up with Dr. Book and Dr. McConnell. I was also impressed with the nurses and technicians who cared for me each day. Their positive attitudes eased my discomfort and helped me make a speedy recovery.”

Watch a video of Sawyer’s song, “South Georgia Pine,” which features footage of Sawyer on the Emory University Hospital campus four months following his most recent operation.