I did quite a bit of research before settling on Dr. J. She had certain techniques that set her apart from her peers. When I inquired at 2 of the leading competitive hospitals if I could expect the same techniques and care as Dr.J I was left unassured.
I became frustrated at one point,which is not uncommon at all during the testing and scheduling phase. I found myself being completely selfish as to why I just couldn't get this thing scheduled and done and over.
Then I had a "vision" ..so to speak. Dr.J was this incredibly gifted individual with special skills only she and a handful of people in the world posses. The vision was of an endless line of people that stretched around the world who all suffered from pectus and were waiting on her to solve their problem. I became filled with compassion when I realized what an immense responsibility has been laid on her shoulders, and the incredible struggle it must be between wanting to save the world and maintain a healthy and sane life of her own. I never shared that with her, but I did have to apologize to Kelly Meyers, her coordinator....who is the best. She was on the receiving end of some of my impatient emails.
After having gone through it my expectations were far exceeded in the final appearance, but also in the treatment and care by the entire staff.
When I was 13 years old my pectus had developed to a point where my sternum was almost touching my backbone and was putting a tremendous amount of pressure on my heart and reduced my lung capacity. I remember having difficulty walking to and from school,riding my bike or any physical activities..so I tended to be a nerd, reading books and playing with computers.
At 13 there was what was considered the best option at the time something called a Ravitch procedure. This is where they go in and cut out the portions of the cartilage and bone that cause the defect.In my case they took out a large amount and left me basically with what is called a floating sternum, where the ribs and sternum are not necessarily attached but just kind of "floating" there.
After the first surgery I felt some relief and got into lifting weights.Up until I was about 18 I felt good but then I noticed things were not working the way they should. I am 6'6 and a lot of growth happened between the surgery at 13 and 18 years old.
I had increasingly more difficulty with exercise and doctors continually wrote it off as 'Asthma" and had prescribed for me the highest amount of medications...2 inhalers and 3 diferent pills as well as sinus sprays.
I knew it was more than asthma so went back to my original surgeon and was told there was nothing more they could do for me.
I went to the Mayo Clinic Rochester in 2006 and within 5 minutes of being in the office was told the only thing they could do for me was block the pain in my spine.
I went to Loyola University and again was told there was nothing they could do for me.
I continually did research on the internet until I came across the research of Dr. Dawn Jaroszewski at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix. She had taken a newer technique called the Nuss which was being used on younger patients. She had taken that procedure put some of her own fine details into it that was giving results far above what other surgeons were achieving...plus she was one of only a few surgeons in the world to be doing it on old guys like me...now 45 years old!
One thing that set her apart is that she used 4 different tests to detect the effect the pectus was actually having on my body.
I remember after having an ultrasound of my heart and ekg which she ordered with my general practioner, the stunned look on his face and the scratching of his head as he was viewing the results as he walked into the room I was in.
With a pale face, he said "What do you need me to do?"
He realized that the pectus had been compressing the top of my heart and now after the surgery Dr.J confirmed the aorta was rubbing against the sternum and is now permanently scarred but they were able to increase the space to prevent any further problems.
It was because of her knowledge and compassion that she helped develop the hybrid redo procedure for old guys like me and I am forever grateful.
Dr. Dawn Jaroszewski and her team at the Mayo in Phoenix are the ones to see.
Immediately after the surgery I experienced the relief of what I've termed "ghost symptoms", where I would wake up in the middle of the night struggling for air and reaching for my asthma inhaler to not have any relief. Since then I have not had any such symptoms and have not used my inhaler. I know it's still early but I have high hopes things will only get better.