Katrina’s Story

Katrina Cox gives the thumbs up with Dr. James Cireddu at UH Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute

Holistic Approach to Bariatric Surgery Prepares for a Safer Heart Valve Replacement

Katrina Cox of Bedford, Ohio is now a healthier and more active mother and grandmother thanks to a whole health approach for care at University Hospitals.

At just 39 years old, Katrina started experiencing troubling symptoms, including difficulty breathing and a lack of energy. One night, she could not catch her breath and passed out. She sought care with University Hospitals Bedford Medical Center and was diagnosed with heart failure as a result of severe mitral regurgitation stemming from rheumatic disease as an adolescent.

Dr. James Cireddu, Medical Director of UH Bedford and Richmond Medical Centers began medically managing Katrina’s heart failure and valve disease during her inpatient stay and then carefully in clinic once she was discharged. Her heart failure regimen was eventually optimized but, Katrina’s severe obesity exacerbated her heart condition and placed her at higher risk for surgical intervention.

Katrina Cox being examined by Dr. James Cireddu

Her care team at UH Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute medically managed her valve disease so that she was able to proceed with weight loss surgery. Two years after being diagnosed with heart failure and with stabilization of her mitral regurgitation, Katrina underwent endoscopic gastric sleeve gastrectomy with Dr. Mujjahid Abbas at UH Cleveland Medical Center. It helped her lose 100 pounds, greatly improving her overall health.

Katrina’s heart stayed stable for nearly two more years. Unfortunately, her valvular disease continued to progress, limiting her exercise capacity and restricting her activities with family and friends. In the summer of 2020, Katrina once again required hospitalization for heart failure at UH Bedford. Following her impressive weight loss, she was at significantly lower risk of surgical complications. During an open heart surgery, Dr. Yasir Abu-Omar successfully completed mitral valve replacement with a #29 mm St. Jude Masters mechanical prosthesis. A few days following surgery, she was ecstatic to find that her shortness of breath had almost completely resolved.

The mother and grandmother was so thankful to be able to breathe, she called the valve replacement a “magic trick.”

“It means the world to me that I can pick up my grandkids and play with them and go on walks with them outside,” said Katrina. “My granddaughter told me I was a fun granny now!”

“It’s been extremely rewarding working with Katrina over the years,” said Dr. Cireddu. “We had exhausted all medical management options for her. We value our collaboration with our colleagues at UH Cleveland Medical Center who provided top notch surgical intervention with an emphasis on returning her safely to the lifestyle she enjoyed prior to debilitating valvular disease.”