Penn Heart and Vascular

Patricia's Experience with the Heart Failure Program

Patricia's Story

Image of Patricia Brough, who suffered from heart failure due to a leaky mitral valve.

"A seriously incorrect diagnosis at another hospital led me to Penn... and a great surgeon who returns emails."

Patricia Brough, 68, Grandmother of five

"About 11 years ago, I was getting totally out of breath just walking to my car after work. I figured I was 57 at the time, and I told myself I'm just getting old, you know. Then one night I woke up totally unable to breathe and I went to the emergency room at my local hospital in New Jersey. Their diagnosis? Asthma. No problem, go home, they said.

The next day I spoke to my son and he suggested I get a second opinion since I had never had asthma before. We decided to go to Penn because my dad always used to say, 'why go to the foot soldiers in NJ when you can go over the bridge to the generals at Penn?'

So I looked on the Internet and found Dr. Michael Acker, a heart surgeon at Penn Medicine. I emailed him that day and within an hour, he personally emailed me back and referred me to a Penn cardiologist, Dr. Mariell Jessup. I called Dr. Jessup and she got me in right away, ran all kinds of tests and diagnosed me with heart failure. Basically, I needed a mitral valve replacement almost immediately – it wasn't asthma at all. Thankfully, within the week, I had that surgery at Penn, and all was fine for years.

Then, in 2010, I suddenly got this terrible toothache and went to the hospital. To my surprise, it was a symptom of a heart attack. Once again, I had a pacemaker and defibrillator put in at Penn. Since then, I'm feeling great. I've been horseback riding and parasailing. I do everything I used to do, and more. I've gotten to see three of my grandchildren being born. I walk two miles a day. All because over a decade ago, Dr. Acker—someone who didn't even know me—answered my email. Penn saved my life."