“I am not a victim of heart disease, I am a survivor.”
Howard Anderson is grateful that his parents were risk-takers – he credits his being alive today with their boldness, and that of his doctors at the time.
Howard was born with multiple structural heart issues in the 1960s. By age 3, his heart was functioning so poorly that his parents were given a choice: try a surgery with a heart-lung machine, a technology not yet perfected at the time, or take him home and make him comfortable. They chose surgery, and Howard was the first child in the United States to survive open heart surgery with a heart-lung machine.
Howard grew up, and as an adult, he began to have heart issues again and saw a multitude of specialists in search of answers. He was told there was nothing more to be done and to get his affairs in order. He was 41 at the time.
“I began to live as if there was no future, no hope,” Howard remembers. “I was told I wouldn’t make it to 50. I made my own funeral arrangements.”
From Hopeless to Hopeful
In 2008, a significant heart event eventually brought Howard to Dr. Kevin Harris at the Minneapolis Heart Institute® at Abbott Northwestern Hospital. He had surgery to fix his ascending aorta, replace a valve and other critical repairs. For the first time in five years, he felt good and had hope for a long life.
Due to the effect of time and normal wear and tear, Howard’s health began to decline a couple of years ago. He continued to see his doctors at MHI, benefiting from the continued research into conditions like his performed at MHIF.
This past fall, Howard had an ablation and a new pacemaker put in at MHI and has a resurgence of energy. Now in his mid-50s, Howard is very happy to be proving the early doctor’s prediction wrong.
“Two years ago I couldn’t even walk a mile. I have already walked two miles in two days after surgery, and I feel great,” Howard says.
Many of the treatments now considered the standard of care across the globe were completed for the first time at MHIF. This work would not be possible without the support of donors who believe in our mission and the importance of cardiovascular research and education.