Pete and Amy Johnson founded Rock from the Heart after Pete’s successful surgery to repair an aortic aneurysm and replace his aortic valve. They felt it was important to share their story because when Pete was diagnosed, they struggled to find consistent information on the disease. They needed hope but were unable to find many resources to support them on the journey.
Here is their story, as told by Pete's wife, Amy:
I will never forget when Pete got the call and was told he had a 5 cm ascending aortic aneurysm and moderate aortic stenosis that would require surgery. I’d never heard of these conditions. When I looked it up on the internet and learned what it was, my knees buckled and my heart skipped a beat. How could this be happening? Pete was healthy, there were no symptoms. We were terrified.
We met with Pete’s primary care doctor later that day, and he explained everything to us. He told us we were very lucky it was caught early. I will never forget his words to us that day, “This is a good thing. We found it early and it is all fixable.”
Pete was monitored every 6 months to check progression of the aneurysm and stenosis. The cardiologist and surgeon explained in detail what the signs and symptoms of aortic dissection were and advised us to call immediately if Pete experienced any symptoms. If the aorta tears, you don’t have much time and most people don’t survive it.
At Pete’s May 2017 appointment, the aneurysm was at 5 cm, and the stenosis had progressed to severe. My husband said, “I guess it’s time to man up and get this fixed,” and we scheduled surgery for July 12. Thankfully, the surgery was a success. After he got home from the hospital, Pete attended cardiac rehab sessions and gradually began to feel like himself again. He drummed his first show 8 weeks after his surgery and has been going strong ever since.
Before he went in for surgery, Pete and I decided that once he recovered, we would find a way to help others by raising awareness of this silent killer. When Pete’s condition was discovered, he had no symptoms. He felt fine. Had his doctor not heard that murmur and sent him for the echo, I’d be telling a very different story. Now it is our turn to give back. We want to use our experience to help others.