Lifespan Cardiovascular Institute

Dennis King

His childhood bout with rheumatic fever caused heart problems 70 years later.

About five years ago, Dennis King, now 76 years old, was feeling progressively fatigued and struggling with shortness of breath. He did what many people his age might do – brushed it off to getting older.

“Don’t try all of those over-the-counter remedies,” he said. “Go to the people that know what they’re talking about, and if they don’t, they’ll direct you to someone who does know what they’re talking about.”

Two feet walking fast on a treadmill.

He Listened to His Heart

Dennis King stayed in good shape throughout his seven decades until the remnants of a childhood illness, rheumatic fever, appeared. He shared his story and the results of his successful heart surgery, with Alexandra Leslie, a reporter at WPRI TV.

After reviewing his failed stress test, medical history, and an echocardiogram, King’s medical team discovered he had a narrow and restricted mitral valve in the heart, and referred him to Afshin Ehsan, MD, a cardiothoracic surgeon at the Lifespan Cardiovascular Institute. Dr. Ehsan connected King’s childhood bout with rheumatic fever to his adult heart disease. King’s symptoms came later in life compared to most survivors of rheumatic fever. 

“I probably attribute that to the fact that he’s in such good shape,” Dr. Ehsan said. “He was better compensated because he was in good shape.”

“Don’t try all of those over-the-counter remedies," advises King. "Go to the people that know what they’re talking about."

Dr. Ehsan noted that it is important to listen to your body, and when feeling something that is not typical, is altering your quality of life, or is limiting your ability to do things, seek medical attention. 

That’s what King did and now, following successful heart surgery, a cardiac rehabilitation program, and additional heart healthy habits, he’s back to his old (no pun intended) self.

Symptoms of Heart Disease

  • Chest pain
  • Chest pressure
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations
  • Lightheadedness

These are a few of the symptoms that may be signs of a heart attack. Find out more about heart attack symptoms, risk factors, and treatment.