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A Heartfelt... Friendship

Debbie Elliott

Diagnosed with mitral valve insufficiency at just 19, Debbie Elliott was already familiar with this disorder because her mother, sister and two uncles had it. She was determined never to let the symptoms of her cardiac condition keep her from living a full life, even spending seven years abroad doing volunteer work with her husband. Still, she knew the problem was progressive and would someday require surgery to replace or repair the valve. The good news was that mitral valve repair is one of the few surgeries that completely restore normal life expectancy.

Several years ago, her mother's condition warranted surgery, and Debbie was determined to find the surgeon best qualified to handle the case. That included two important prerequisites: expertise in mitral valve repair and experience using surgical techniques that would not require the use of blood, in keeping with the family's religious beliefs.

Intensive research brought her to Patrick Griffith, M.D., who leads the cardiac surgery team at The Heart Center at Rideout, in Marysville. "We were willing to go anywhere, but it turned out that the specialist we needed -- one of only a few hundred in the country -- was just 30 minutes away from Oroville," Debbie recalled. "Dr. Griffith is not just an amazing surgeon; he is an amazing man."

Her mother's surgery was a success, and Dr. Griffith became part of the family. But the story did not end there.

This May, at only 53, Debbie suffered a rapid decline in her own condition, requiring immediate surgery. Dr. Griffith, whose medical training included a fellowship at the National Institutes of Health, now had in place the protocols for minimally invasive mitral valve repair, avoiding traditional "open chest" surgery and its long recovery period. Debbie was a perfect candidate for the new procedure, which also was done without the use of blood. Just four days after her surgery, Debbie was back home living life in full. "My purpose in sharing my story is to let people know that this surgical 'dream team', these skills, this wonderful care is available right here in our area. I cannot imagine getting any better care anywhere."