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11 Most Famous People Who Are Living With Bicuspid Aortic Valve

A bicuspid aortic valve (BAV) is a heart condition where the aortic valve, which controls blood flow from the heart to the rest of the body, has two cusps instead of the typical three. This anomaly can cause the valve to become narrowed or leaky, leading to heart problems such as aortic valve stenosis or aortic regurgitation.

BAV is the most common congenital heart defect and can be asymptomatic or cause symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, or fatigue.

Studies indicate that if severe aortic valve stenosis, a common issue with BAV, is left untreated, it is associated with an annual mortality rate of 25%, with a mean survival duration after diagnosis of 2-3 years. However, for adults with BAV who undergo surveillance and appropriate management, the 5-year and 10-year survival rates have been reported to be around 93% and 89%, respectively. Research also suggests that the 20-year survival rates for individuals with BAV are approximately 70% for women and 62% for men.

So, timely diagnosis, proper monitoring, and appropriate treatment significantly impact the long-term survival outcomes for individuals with BAV. According to VCU Health, with proper management and treatment, individuals with BAV can have a normal life expectancy.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most famous people who are living with a bicuspid aortic valve.

1. Arnold Schwarzenegger

Former Mr. Olympia and governor of California was born with BAV. Arnold has undergone 3 emergency heart surgeries in his life. He underwent an elective heart procedure in 1997 to replace his aortic valve. During the procedure, he opted for a tissue valve instead of a mechanical option since he believed that a mechanical valve could affect his physical activity.

2. Leo Hernandez

Back in 2009, Leo underwent an aortic replacement surgery on his 57th birthday at the Reagan UCLA Medical Center. Leo was diagnosed with BAV in 2000, but he managed to live with the condition for 8 years and even climbed some of the world’s tallest mountains including Mt. Kilimanjaro. Unfortunately, the problem worsened with time and he had to undergo a surgery. By 2008 his pressure gradient had increased to 68 while the valve area had reduced to 0.8 squared centimeters.

3. Julie H. Gordon

Julie was born with BAV and she knew that she must have a surgery at some point. She took periodic echocardiograms in her 20s and 30s which confirmed that everything was ok. But by the time she was 39 years old, the issue had worsened and she had to undergo a surgery.

4. Kaitlynn Dawson

Dawson may have been born with BAV, but she didn’t know that she had it until she was 19 years old. Kaitlynn had always had shortness of breath while practicing and even used an inhaler, but everything changed when she felt dizzy while working out. The softball player went to a physician who diagnosed her with BAV. Kaitlynn had to undergo a surgery a year later after she collapsed while jogging.

5. Robbie Benson

The American actor was diagnosed with heart murmur in his teens caused by BAV, but it wasn’t serious. Unfortunately, he started feeling dizzy and losing consciousness in his twenties and had to undergo an open heart surgery. The doctors inserted a bovine valve in 1984 which failed after 15 years. Robbie has had 3 more open-heart surgeries to deal with this condition and its symptoms.  

6. Aaron Boone

Boone was diagnosed with BAV in 2009 and underwent an open-heart surgery while playing for the Houston Astros. The procedure was successful, but in 2021, he started experiencing shortness of breath and lightheadedness. Therefore, doctors had to insert a pacemaker in his heart in 2021 to save the life of the Yankees manager.

7. Erin Sargent

Erin had congenital BAV that started affecting her after she gave birth to her son. The doctors couldn’t find the cause of the symptoms, but after further tests, they determined that she had infective endocarditis which is common among people with this condition. She was given some antibiotics to deal with the condition, but had to undergo an open-heart surgery. Currently, she is using a bioprosthetic valve that has improved her health.

8. Bill Wild

Wild was diagnosed with heart murmurs when he was 14 years old that was caused by BAV. Bill lived with the condition for almost 3 decades, but after turning 42, he was diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm when he had a kidney stone. He underwent a modified Ross procedure in 2019 and has recovered.

9. Steffi Thiem

The 31 years old woman was diagnosed with this condition when she was 17 years old. But the symptoms became an issue in 2013 and she had to undergo a surgery. She opted for a mechanical over a tissue valve which became an issue when she got pregnant. Thiem had to use blood thinners for the rest of her life, but she did manage to give birth to 3 healthy children.

10. Cassi Oshefsky

Cassi and her sister Steffi were born with BAV, but Cassi was diagnosed with it at birth. She managed the condition until 2013/14 when it became an issue and she had to undergo a surgery like her sister Steffi Thiem. Like her sister, she did have problems when pregnant since she was using a blood thinner, but managed to also give birth to 3 children.

11. Jeff Street

Street, an Idaho resident, was diagnosed with BAV at birth and had to undergo an open-heart surgery in his 30s. The Ross Procedure was successful and the new aortic valve served him for 30 years. Unfortunately, he started to feel sluggish in his 60s and the doctors confirmed that he had an aortic aneurysm. He underwent a Bentall procedure in 2020 and is currently healthy and doing what he loves.

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While BAV poses risks to the heart’s normal function, it’s comforting to know that many individuals have successfully lived with it for decades. And that’s because it can take over a decade before BAV presents significant challenges. Fortunately, individuals like those mentioned above have undergone open-heart surgeries, receiving either mechanical or tissue aorta replacements, that gave them a new lease of life. Though some of them have had to undergo additional surgeries, their cases serve as a testament to resilience and the possibility of overcoming obstacles. Remember, you’re not alone in this journey.

Kenyalogue Contributor

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