On May 26, 2021, Andre Braxton of the Palmetto community in Pontotoc County was jarred awake from a sound sleep. “It felt like a pop in the center of my back,” Andre says. “It woke me up.” He grabbed his phone and walked to the bathroom. “Then my left leg went completely numb,” he says. “I called my wife. She didn’t hear the phone, but our dog started barking and woke her up.”
His wife, Jackie, called for an ambulance and when it arrived, “I was sweating and hurting,” says Andre, 40. “My leg was tingling real bad.” Based on the initial CT scan ordered in the Emergency Department, they thought they were dealing with sciatica. But, “the doctor felt my foot and didn’t find a pulse,” he says.
After a second CT scan, this one with dye for contrast, doctors discovered an aortic dissection—a tear in the inner layer of the aorta. Because the aorta is the main artery that delivers oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the body, aortic dissection is life-threatening. “It’s by the grace of God that Andre is here,” Jackie says. “I truly believe God had his thumb on Andre’s heart.”
Cardiothoracic surgeon Robert Derveloy, M.D., performed emergency open heart surgery on Andre to repair the damage. After two weeks—and several setbacks—Andre was finally able to leave NMMC. Later that summer, an echocardiogram revealed more problems. “My heart wasn’t functioning like it should have been,” he says.
Andre was diagnosed with mitral regurgitation, a condition affecting the mitral valve located between the heart’s two left chambers. Because his mitral valve wasn’t closing completely, blood was leaking backward inside his heart, putting an extra burden on his heart and lungs and leading to heart failure.
In September 2021, cardiothoracic surgeon David Talton, M.D., repaired Andre’s mitral valve using MitraClip; unlike surgery, this procedure does not require opening the chest and temporarily stopping the heart. Instead, Dr. Talton accessed the mitral valve with a thin tube (called a catheter) that was guided through a vein in Andre’s leg to reach his heart. He then attached the MitraClip device to Andre’s mitral valve to allow it to close more completely and restore normal blood flow. He returned home a few days later, feeling great and extremely grateful for a new lease on life.
“I live my life a totally different way now,” Andre says. “Every chance I get, I thank God for allowing me to hang around.”