Congestive Heart Failure, Valve Repair

Ellen Goodman thought her life was over due to congestive heart failure...until she came to Penn Medicine.

Meet Ellen

30 years ago, Ellen was diagnosed with an advanced form of Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She was treated with chemo and radiation therapy, which sent her cancer in remission, and she went on to graduate college and meet her husband, Bruce. Together, they started a family and had a great place down the shore. It was on one of their frequent trips to the beach that Ellen started experiencing discomfort. She just didn’t feel right and soon had trouble breathing. Bruce called an ambulance, but they couldn’t get her heart rate down and Ellen was put in a medically induced coma for two weeks.

Congestive Heart Failure

Although she had received treatment for cancer many years before, the radiation had other side effects, and she was now in heart failure. In congestive heart failure, blood flow slows down and begins to back up in the veins, causing excess fluids to accumulate in the body's tissues. There is most often swelling in the legs and ankles, but it can occur in other parts of the body as well. Sometimes fluid collects in the lungs and interferes with breathing, causing shortness of breath.

Seeking a Second Opinion

Though the hospital tried a variety of treatments, Ellen was not improving and she and Bruce decided to seek a second opinion. They requested a transfer to Penn, where they met Dr. Michael Acker, Chief of Cardiovascular Surgery at Penn Medicine. Dr. Acker examined Ellen and found that her valve was the cause of her cardiac disease. He determined that a new valve would improve her quality of life. With this new care plan in place, Ellen and Bruce felt hope. On the day of the surgery all went as planned. Today, Ellen and her family are back to the life they love.


If you or someone you love is currently being seen by a cardiologist, but would like to know more about second opinions, you can learn more here.

We also encourage you to download a free heart failure patient information guide.

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