Vycky's Story- Valvular Heart Disease

A specialized echocardiogram ordered by the Virginia Heart team revealed that Vycky Lara’s debilitating shortness of breath had nothing to do with her lungs, but was due to valvular heart disease. Following surgery to correct the issue, Vycky is golfing again and enjoying life fully.

When Vycky Lara started feeling run down and out of breath, her primary care physician diagnosed her with pneumonia. But her exam also revealed that Vycky had a heart murmur that would need to be monitored.

Yet after a course of antibiotics and additional testing by a pulmonologist that revealed her lungs were clear, Vycky continued to suffer debilitating shortness of breath, so much so that even climbing a flight of stairs would leave her gasping for air. The pulmonologist told Vycky she needed to see a cardiologist about her heart murmur.

Based on a recommendation from her sister, who also sees the team at Virginia Heart, Vycky made an appointment with Dr. Edward Howard. From the results of an echocardiogram he ordered, Dr. Howard quickly referred Vycky to his colleague at Virginia Heart, Dr. Raymond Vlacancich. Dr. Vlacancich performed a specialized transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) that uses a small tube inserted through the esophagus. This device emits high-frequency sound waves (ultrasound) that create detailed pictures of the heart and its arteries.

The TEE revealed that a piece of Vycky’s mitral valve had broken loose and was the cause of her symptoms. To correct the problem, she would need open heart surgery. Although Dr. Vlacancich did not perform the surgery, he reached out to a colleague and mentor who he knew was familiar with the surgery to see if he would see Vycky. Dr. Vlacancich also conducted a peer-to-peer review of Vycky’s case with her insurance company so that her treatment would be covered.

After a successful operation and seven days at Washington Hospital Center, Vycky was home and began cardiac rehab and follow up care with Dr. Vlacancich. Dr. Vlacancich says, “The ability to accurately diagnose valvular heart disease and help patients through the treatment options is one of the more rewarding parts of cardiology and to see Ms. Lara get back to living her best life is the best part of my job.”

“I can’t say enough about Dr. Vlacancich. He was with me throughout the whole journey,” Vycky said. “The entire Virginia Heart team really goes out of their way to make you feel special, like you are their only patient.”