Winning the Battle Against Heart Defects
Justin was born with multiple heart defects 38 years ago, most children like
him didn’t live to adulthood. Fortunately, an early repair worked
for many years. And when Justin’s cardiac problems resurfaced in
2012, RWJBarnabas Health provided the complex care he needed to survive
– and resume his active life as a school principal, husband and father.
“They saved my life,” says Justin, referring to the Center
for Adult Congenital Heart Disease at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center
(NBIMC), an RWJBarnabas Health facility.
Justin started having symptoms about two years ago, including shortness
of breath and a racing pulse. He went to NBIMC, where doctors performed
open heart surgery to replace a severely damaged heart valve. Specialists
also made a series of incisions – known as the Maze procedure –
in an effort to correct his irregular heartbeat.
When the fast, uneven beats continued, the cardiology team implanted a
pacemaker and defibrillator to automatically regulate Justin’s heartbeat.
About a year later, the replacement valve failed, which sometimes occurs
in such situations. But rather than have Justin undergo another open heart
surgery, NBIMC doctors conducted a less invasive procedure. They inserted
a new type of device – the Melody valve – through a vein in
the groin. The hospital is the only center in New Jersey to offer this
“I feel great,” says the Pequannock resident, who also credits
his wife Allison for her steadfast support. “I live a normal life.
I run around with my daughter and my nieces and nephews.”
Looking ahead, Justin knows he’ll eventually need another open-heart
surgery when the Melody valve wears out.
“I’m OK with that,” says the dedicated dad of 4-year-old
Maya. “I tell my daughter all the time, I’m going to walk
her down the aisle. I have plenty of reasons to fight this disease.”