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Gregg Speer was the picture of good health. The Massachusetts native had been an avid runner and hiker for most of his life, worked out several times a week and ate a nutritious diet.
So why is Speer pledging an annual gift to support cardiovascular care at IU Health? It started with a fairly routine prostate biopsy. In 2018, after testing showed his PSA levels were high, he was given a choice between starting on medication or having a biopsy procedure. Speer chose the biopsy since his father had also had cancer.
Toward the end of the procedure, he felt faint and lost consciousness. He found out only later that his heart had stopped and he needed to be resuscitated.
“I was planning to go hiking the next day,” Speer said. But that wasn’t in the cards. Instead, though he felt fine, he was admitted to Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital, where physicians found a bicuspid aortic valve that was only opening at 10%. The valve needed to be replaced immediately.
Suddenly, Speer had another tough choice to make: which procedure would he choose to save his life? A mechanical valve would require a less invasive procedure, but the trade-off would be a lifetime of medication and the possibility that the device might eventually need to be replaced. His care team, including IU Health CV Surgeon Daniel Beckman, MD, and Cardiologist George Revtyak, MD, recommended a bovine valve (yes, using tissue from cows). It would require full open-heart surgery, but it would also reduce his need for medications and get him back to his active lifestyle quicker.
Speer took the doctors’ advice and proceeded with the bovine valve. “I can't say enough about Dr. Revtyak and Dr. Beckman,” he says. “I have nothing but praise for both of them. They gave me a new lease on life.”
The treatment Speer received inspired him to give back in the hopes of ensuring that other patients will have access to the same high level of cardiovascular care. “I feel close to it because it’s happened to me. And of course that brings a willingness to give,” says Speer. “The team at Methodist is uniquely capable of saving a lot of people and helping many. So it's easy to feel a sense of giving when you've had that experience.”
Today, Speer is fully recovered and back to his active life. In fact, he’s worked hard to achieve an even higher level of fitness after his surgery, working out five to seven days a week, hiking six miles or biking up to 30 miles.
“I have much more endurance now,” he says. “I've done some adventuring throughout my life, running, hiking in the mountains with my best friend. But I always kind of lagged behind. Now, I'm the one pushing him.”
You can help patients like Speer by supporting cardiovascular care at IU Health. Once prompted, select "IU Health Statewide." Then select “Other” under “Direct My Gift To.” Type “Cardiovascular Care.”