Where is that noise coming from?

Usually older adults are the ones having open heart surgery, but not in the situation of one high school student. PJ Laake is an 18year old Elder senior with an unusual story. PJ has Aortic Stenosis which is a disease that narrows the opening of the aortic valve in the heart and could cause death if not treated. On November 14, 2012, PJ underwent a five and a half hour surgery to replace the aortic valve that was a problem in his heart. “Without the surgery,” PJ says, “I would’ve died from either cardiac arrest or a heart attack.” According to PJ, the doctors wanted to do the surgery in the summer once his senior year was over but discovered after taking a look into his heart that the valve was worse than first thought. PJ went through a five hour preparation for the surgery and underwent the 5 and a half hour surgery. The doctors inserted what is called an “On-x” which basically is a metal stabilizer that acts as the valve as it opens and closes allowing blood to pass through. He is only the second person in Cincinnati to ever have the “On-x” inserted. When PJ woke up after the surgery, he had three tubes: a catheter, one in his chest, and one is his mouth which caused problems. “I was unable to breathe in the tube in my mouth and was getting sick,” says PJ. The doctors eventually took out all three tubes leaving an almost 7-inch scar that he called his “big a** scar for the ladies.” After about a week, PJ was able to leave the hospital but after being at home for five days, he got sick and had to return. Doctors found that a sac below his heart had filled with some kind of fluid causing chest pain for PJ. The chest pains caused him to have another week long stay in the hospital. For the chest pain PJ was given steroids to help with the pain and Coumadin, a blood thinner, which causes him to have to check his blood once a week. Three and a half weeks after his surgery, he tried going back to school but ended up going back too early and had to wait another two weeks before trying it again. PJ is now able to run and has been cleared to do some things that any other 18 year old teenager can do. Although able to run and get his heart rate up, he is unable to play contact sports, get bumped in the chest, and can only lift certain weights to keep his chest from ripping open again. After a month and a half, PJ returned to school full time but fellow students started to hear a faint, unusual tic. With students trying to find where the noise was coming from, PJ let them know that the noise they were hearing was the metal valve that was inserted in his heart. The tic may be faint but it is noticeable. “The tic does not bother or distract me which I thought it would, especially when trying to sleep. I have gotten used to it,” said PJ. PJ is doing well and is back full time at school saying, “As a bonus, I get to have someone carry my book bag and ride the elevator at school.” He finished by saying, “The surgery has brought some small changes but it has also saved my life.”