WSVN — It’s a heart condition many people aren’t aware of but it can be life-threatening. A local man says he’s alive today because the problem was caught in time. 7’s Diana Diaz has more on this heart hope.

Ruben Suarez loves a good cup of Cuban coffee and time spent with his family, but his life took an unexpected turn after some routine dental work.

Ruben Suarez: “It all started with pulling out a tooth.”

In the days after dental surgery, he started to get sick.

Ruben Suarez: “I was having a hard time breathing.”

After visiting several doctors, Ruben found out he had an abnormal heart valve. Normally it would not affect his life but the dental work made it life threatening.

Doctors say the bacteria from the infected tooth traveled to his defective valve and infected it. So his heart stopped pumping properly.

Dr. Michael Cortelli: “There’s increased pressure on the chambers of the heart.”

Heart Surgeon Michael Cortelli says if a heart valve starts to leak, the patient can develop serious symptoms.

Dr. Michael Cortelli: “Untreated valvular heart disease that progresses can ultimately lead to heart failure.”

Ruben was rushed into open heart surgery to replace the faulty valve.

Ruben Suarez: “When the words are said ‘open heart surgery’, it’s a pretty scary thought.”

During the operation, Dr. Cortelli discovered the infection was destroying a second heart valve.

Dr. Michael Cortelli: “We took care of both valves at the same time.”

Ruben didn’t realize how close he was to dying.

Ruben Suarez: “Within a week or two I wouldn’t be here.”

A month later, his heart is still healing

Ruben Suarez: “A lot of times you want to wake up and want to think it was just a bad nightmare.”

But then he sees the heart pillow he received at the hospital and is reminded of how far he’s come.

Ruben Suarez: “Then you realize that this was actually a procedure that did happen in your life and that you’re moving forward.”

With each step, Ruben says he’s getting stronger and is planning on walking in the Broward Heart Walk next year.

Ruben Suarez: “You move in the right direction and it gets better and better and better.”

Way to go, Ruben. You can join Channel-7 this Sunday the 12 for the Broward Heart Walk at Nova Southeastern University. All proceeds will benefit the American Heart Association.


Join our Newsletter for the latest news right to your inbox