At 62, he needed care at a children’s hospital

At 62, he needed care at a children’s hospital

The chairs are never quite big enough. The blood pressure cuff in the exam room is usually too tight. And, his wife teases that he may get a coloring sheet at the end of his appointment, if he’s good.

That’s because at age 62, Rick Marks sees a pediatric cardiovascular surgeon, Dr. Michel Ilbawi, at Advocate Children’s Hospital. Dr. Ilbawi recently performed a pulmonary valve replacement on Rick’s heart.

Rick is one of a growing number of adults who have survived congenital heart disease. Congenital heart defects are structural problems of the heart found in infants at birth. But, because treatment has advanced so significantly over the years—today, more adults than children are actually living with the disease in the U. S.

“Rick had his first heart procedure as a baby back in 1956. Open heart surgery followed in 1962,” says Dr. Ilbawi. “All was good with Rick until 2015. That’s when he had a fainting episode that caused concern. We determined that his valve was leaking, causing his heart to enlarge and lose complete function.”

“When I started having problems, I was advised to see Dr. Ilbawi because he is so well known for being an expert in congenital heart disease,” says Rick. “Even though I was a lot older than most of his patients, he was the physician best able to help me.”

Rick’s surgery went well.

“It is not unusual for congenital heart patients who reach their senior years to need some follow-up care,” adds Dr. Ilbawi. “Hopefully he will not experience any further difficulties.”

Rick, who has spent his life doing heavy exercise, including bicycling and even triathlons, hopes he can serve as an inspiration to both young people with congenital heart disease—as well as parents who receive the diagnosis when a baby is born.

“I want them to know that this disease will not stop your life,” says Rick. “I am a good example of that. A child with congenital heart disease can have a long and productive life ahead without restrictions; a perfectly normal, healthy life.”

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Evonne Woloshyn
Evonne Woloshyn

Evonne Woloshyn, health enews contributor, is director of public affairs and marketing at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital. Evonne began her career as an anchor and reporter in broadcast news. Over the past 20 years, she has worked in health care marketing in both Ohio and Illinois. Evonne loves to travel, spend time with family and is an avid Pittsburgh Steelers fan!

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