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Sandra’s story: New heart valve at 80? Great!

Friday, February 10, 2017

By: Jeff Ash

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Sandra Eklund Aurora BayCare Cardiothoracic patient


Being 80 isn’t what it used to be. Sandra Eklund is proof.


“Hey, I’m doing things I haven’t done for years. I’m 80 and I feel like I’m 50,” she says.


Eklund had the mitral valve in her heart replaced by Dr. Alexander Roitstein, a BayCare Clinic cardiothoracic surgeon, in July 2016.


“Dr. Roitstein and the hospital gave me a whole new life,” she says. “You’ve been given an incredible gift when your heart gets fixed.”


That hospital is Aurora BayCare Medical Center in Green Bay, where an appreciative Eklund now volunteers twice a week, traveling an hour from her home in Peshtigo to do so.


“I wanted to do this for years, but I never had the energy,” she says.


Eklund’s heart trouble surfaced early in 2016.


“I’ve always been an exerciser, but it was getting more difficult. I thought it was my age. I was doing light exercise and I couldn’t breathe,” she says. “I had no energy, I was taking two, three naps a day. I thought it was my age, especially when I turned 80.”


Eklund eventually went to the emergency room in Marinette, then was taken to the Green Bay hospital, where she underwent five days of testing to determine the issue.


When Eklund learned a damaged mitral valve was to blame for her lack of energy, “I was surprised because I was getting older and that was how I thought an older person should feel,” she says.


“Think of the mitral valve as a parachute. In this case, its cords are damaged,” Roitstein says. “It was originally thought that the valve had ruptured during exercise, but certain elements were more chronic in nature.”


Mitral valve problems are more common in women than men, Roitstein says.


“Guys who have it tend to be heavy lifters. The valve begins to degenerate,” he says.


Dr. Alexander Roitstein with patient Sandra Eklund


Eklund spent a week at Aurora BayCare Medical Center after her valve replacement surgery.


“I received excellent care. This is a world-class hospital with world-class doctors and world-class nurses,” she says.


Since then, Eklund has been going strong.


“She’s recovered well. She’s back to normal. She gets her life back,” says Roitstein, who expects Eklund to continue to thrive.


“I exercise five times a week,” she says, rattling off a regimen of workouts that would challenge someone much younger. “I can do 21 miles on the bike without a sweat.”


Eklund, a retired bank manager and loan officer, embraces her fresh start at 80.


“I have a whole new mental sharpness, a whole new calmness,” she says, marveling at “how much I can do that I couldn’t do five years ago, 10 years ago.”



Dr. Alexander Roitstein sees patients at Aurora BayCare Medical Center in Green Bay. For information, call 866-433-7953.

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