John's Story- Valvular Heart Disease

While others were raising a toast to 2020, John Mason rang in the new year by undergoing open heart surgery to replace his mitral and aortic valves and to repair his tricuspid valve.

It was major surgery for someone in his mid-80s, but John came through with flying colors—not at all surprising given his track record of never shying away from a challenge. He is a retired Army colonel who served two tours in Vietnam and also served as the mayor of the City of Fairfax for 12 years.

John initially began seeing Dr. Casey R. Benton, at Virginia Heart’s Fair Oaks office, in February of 2019, after his doctor detected a heart murmur which was determined to be due to mitral regurgitation.  John says he felt an immediate rapport with Dr. Benton at his first visit. “He has a very warm and welcoming demeanor and clearly comes across as interested in the patient,” he said. “He took the time to know something about me.”  Progression of his valve condition and the development of atrial fibrillation lead to Dr. Benton referring him to the surgeon by September of 2019, and he ultimately underwent successful surgery at the end of the year. 

What is especially helpful to John and his wife Jeanette, however, is Dr. Benton’s patience in explaining the complicated issues associated with heart surgery. “When he recommends medication and therapy, he takes out a note pad and writes down the key points and gives it to me,” John said. “And that’s important because the terminology is not something we would remember.”

Now that he is coming up on the one-year anniversary of his open heart surgery, John is pleased to report he is doing well, despite the challenges of the pandemic. “The hardest part of my recovery has been some of the restrictions on the exercising I can do, such as swimming,” he said.

This New Year’s Eve, John and his family—his three adult children, four grandchildren and one brand new great-granddaughter—will celebrate his good health and successful recovery, both as a result of his determination and the excellent care provided by Dr. Benton and the Virginia Heart team.