On April 19, Dr. Allan Stewart told Summer Ash that she needed open heart surgery. Summer is a postdoctoral researcher at Columbia University in the Astrophysics department.She blogs at Newtonianism for the Ladies, tweets as @Summer_Ash, and is the in-house Astrophysicist for The Rachel Maddow Show.
When she found out she would need major surgery, she started blogging at “Defective Heart Girl Problems” to document her experience. You can see her whole journey there.
She underwent a successful surgery on July 18, and armed her surgeons with her iPhone to take pictures of her during surgery. Be warned, some of the images in this slideshow are quite graphic.
Summer was diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm, which is when one of the major blood vessels leading away from the heart gets stretched out. It was caused by a physical abnormality with Summer's heart: her aortic valve has two instead of three flaps. Many people live their entire lives without having problems from this abnormality, but Summer wasn't that lucky.
This image is of her heart when they first opened her up. From Summer's blog post about her surgery day:
'To get to this point, my surgeon has cut the skin directly down the middle of my chest over my sternum, used a bone saw to cut my sternum in half, used a scalpel to open the sac around my chest cavity, and then used a scalpel again to open the pericardial sac that holds my heart. You can see a flap of the pericardial sac to the right in opening.'
Here's the doctors putting in the graft, after putting Summer on a heart-lung bypass machine and stopping her heart so they could take out the stretched out area. You can see how much smaller the heart is when it's not full of blood.
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