Donna's Story

Local Woman Returns to her Active Lifestyle after a Successful Heart Surgery at UH

Dr. Soon Park with patient, Donna Bentley

Donna Bentley, of North Olmsted, was aware of her heart murmur for most of her adult life; her primary care physician discovered it years ago during a routine physical. Donna’s mother had cardiovascular disease, including an enlarged heart, so she wasn’t surprised to learn that she had likely inherited this condition.

In 2008, Donna began to notice that she was often becoming short of breath. Chalking it up to a lack of exercise, she went on with her busy life as a mother, grandmother and administrative assistant in the office of Family Medicine Administration at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center.

In 2011, the frequency and severity of her episodes demanded that she investigate them further.

“It got to the point that I became winded – sometimes even gasping for air – just walking from my car into the grocery store,” said Donna.

Initially diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, Donna was prescribed an inhaler, but she felt that something else was at the root of her symptoms. So her primary care physician referred her to University Hospitals cardiologist Guilherme Oliveira, MD. When test results suggested she may need surgery, she was introduced to Soon Park, MD, division chief of cardiac surgery at UH and co-chair of the clinical executive committee of University Hospitals Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute.

“My initial reaction when I met Dr. Park was, ‘This man is fabulous,’” said Donna. “He is very kind, personable and helpful. I felt like my search was over.”

“Donna had a condition called obstructive hypertropic cardiomyopathy,” said Dr. Park. “It occurs when the septum (the wall between the chambers of the heart) begins to thicken and obstructs blood flow, which can cause shortness of breath or even fainting.” Additionally, Dr. Park discovered that Donna’s mitral valve (a valve in the heart between the left upper chamber and the left lower chamber) was damaged. “It wasn’t closing properly, which allowed blood to leak backward into the chamber,” said Dr. Park.

Dr. Park performed a septal myectomy – a type of open heart surgery – on Donna at UH Cleveland Medical Center on December 20, 2013. This procedure removed her thickened septum and created a larger opening in her left ventricle to enable sufficient blood flow. He also replaced her damaged mitral valve with a mechanical heart valve.

The surgery was very successful. After a four-day hospital stay, Donna went home to rest and recover from her operation. “The follow-up care I received after my surgery was great,” said Donna. “The people I encountered at UH were very caring.”

Today, Donna is fully recovered and back to work at UH. In her free time, she enjoys walking and spending time with her children, grandchildren, and her dog.

“I’m so grateful to Dr. Park and UH,” said Donna. “Now I can walk without getting short of breath!”

For an appointment with one of our cardiovascular specialists, call 216-844-3800.