• By Dana Sparks

Sharing Mayo Clinic: Life threatening infection leads to lifesaving heart surgery

February 17, 2019

heart surgery patient Alex Zabaski lifting weightsAlex Zabaski became seriously ill when an infection destroyed one of his heart valves. But emergency heart surgery at Mayo Clinic eliminated the danger and restored Alex's heart health.

In March 2017, Alex Zabaski of Phoenix welcomed the chance to see friends in Chicago — a city he'd never visited before. During his stay, the 25-year-old was eager to take in some of the iconic sights that define the Windy City. While his friends were at work, Alex struck out on a walk by himself.

"I walked to the beach, and I made it to Wrigley Field, where there happened to be Cubs game," Alex recalls. Because he was so taken with the excitement and spirit of the crowds near the stadium, he was unaware of how long he had been walking. "I was totally surprised that I had walked 17 miles," he says.

Alex also was unaware of a blister that was forming on his foot — a seemingly minor annoyance that he ignored. But that blister ended up leading to an infection that attacked the pulmonary valve of his heart. The valve already was compromised as a result of a heart condition he'd had since birth. "The infection pretty much ate my pulmonary valve," he says.

That innocent walk along Lake Michigan launched a medical odyssey for Alex, and significant health issues escalated to the point that he nearly died. But in July 2017, surgeons at Mayo Clinic performed emergency heart surgery on Alex, and the nine-hour procedure saved his life. Read the rest of Alex's story.
This article originally appeared on the Sharing Mayo Clinic blog.