Back on top after mitral valve repair

Former U-M resident shares his story

Dr. Mel Twiest is back on top of the world, hiking 54 miles of England's Southwest Coast Path following surgery for mitral valve repair.

Dr. Mel Twiest hiked 54 miles of England’s Southwest Coast Path following surgery for mitral valve repair.

Dr. Mel Twiest, a general surgeon who attended the University of Michigan medical school and completed his residency at U-M in the early 1970s, found himself back in familiar surroundings recently, but this time in the role of patient. After experiencing shortness of breath while hiking in the mountains of Santa Fe a few years ago, the 70-year-old doctor realized something was wrong. He was diagnosed with severe mitral valve disease. After several procedures, including mitral valve repair, Dr. Twiest credits the U-M Frankel Cardiovascular Center team for getting him close to his goal of climbing a mountain again.

Dr. Twiest shares his experience …

I had my first encounter as a patient at U-M in February 2013 for an ablation procedure performed by Dr. Hakan Oral. He and the entire CVC team came highly recommended, so I didn’t hesitate to travel from Tennessee to Michigan for the procedure, which was successful. But Dr. Oral warned me at the time that I was going to get into further trouble with my mitral heart valve. Unfortunately, he was right.

The right choice

In late September it became clear that I needed to have my mitral valve repaired soon, and with my very positive earlier experience at the CVC, I really didn’t want to go elsewhere. Dr. Steven Bolling came highly recommended due to his extensive experience in mitral valve surgery. I can’t say enough about the professionalism and graciousness of the CVC staff — from the parking garage attendant to the receptionists and exceptional nurses, and the same holds true in the main hospital. There is a definite culture of helpfulness and caring concern toward patients. Dr. Bolling is a superb surgeon and has an outstanding team of people supporting him, both in the office and in the hospital. There is no doubt in my mind about my decision to ask him to perform what turned out to be a complicated operation. He says I’ll be climbing mountains soon, and I believe him. I have always been proud of my Michigan roots, but never as proud as now, after having been a patient and seeing so much more of what the U-M Medical Center has become. We talk a lot now about patient-centered care; U-M exemplifies what that means.

Ready for new challenges

Today, people tell me that I look better than ever, even though I never really felt sick before my operations. I’m walking five or six miles every day and recently hiked a part of the Southwest Coast Path in England: 54 miles in 5 days, 13,000 foot total elevation gain. It was hard, but my heart seemed to do fine. I feel great and am getting ready for my next challenge: hiking the Grand Canyon.

Take the next step:

  • To make an appointment to discuss your need for treatment, call toll-free at 888-287-1082 or email at CVCCallCtr@med.umich.edu.

Frankel-informal-vertical-sigThe University of Michigan Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center is the top-ranked heart and heart surgery program among Michigan hospitals. To learn more, visit our website at umcvc.org.