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Unique mitral valve surgery helps police officer return to duty

  • Rob Johnston became a police officer when he was 19 years old. But, even outside of work he had always been active - playing sports, running and lifting weights. The fact that doctors told him in fourth grade that he had a heart murmur didn’t hold him back, so he thought he had outgrown it.

    For most of his life, Johnston had experienced general fatigue and sleep problems, but he thought this was normal due to his line of work. At the young age of 35, he was caught off guard during a routine physical when he was diagnosed with mitral valve regurgitation.

    After his diagnosis, he went to Minneapolis Heart Institute® at Abbott Northwestern Hospital where he met with cardiologist Michael Mooney, MD and cardiothoracic surgeon Robert Farivar, MD.

    Johnston was fortunate to be able to see Dr. Farivar, who is one of only a handful of surgeons in the country who performs minimal access mitral valve surgery. This technique uses a smaller than normal incision, which is more difficult to perform, but allows the patient to heal faster.

    Following his surgery, Johnston stayed with his parents who live in Backus, Minn. Fortunately, Minneapolis Heart Institute® has a clinic in Crosby, so Johnston did not have to travel far for his cardiac rehabilitation appointments twice a week.

    Three months later, Johnston returned to the force, able to do desk work, and a month later he returned to full duty. The fatigue that he felt before his surgery is completely gone and he is finally sleeping well – something he was not used to. Johnston says, "now that I know the new norm, I feel completely different. I had no idea how different I could feel."

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