Health Matters: Mitral valve prolapse diagnosis leads to heart surgery for former Arkansas Razorback quarterback

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Ron Calcagni was a superstar on the gridiron.

The former Arkansas Razorback quarterback has stayed active and healthy since then, until a routine checkup revealed something surprising.

“And my primary care doctor said did anybody ever tell you you have a heart murmur? And I go, what do you mean a heart murmur?”

His primary care physician referred him to Doctor Alex Orsini at Baptist Health.

“And I was very excited because Ron Calcagni was coming,” Dr. Orsini recalls.

“His heritage, him being Italian, I’m Italian we kinda hit it off,” Calcagni adds.

All was well until April of this year when Calcagni noticed shortness of breath during one of his usual workouts.

Soon after, he began coughing and ended up in the emergency room. It turned out, his heart valve was leaking.

“We knew the valve needed to be operated on as fast as possible,” says Dr. Orsini.

Mitral valve prolapse is the most common valve abnormality in Americans. Most people do just fine but in Calcagni’s case…

“You have about a 90 percent or more chance of a complication or requiring surgery at some point in your life,” Dr. Orsini explains.

Calcagni’s surgery in April was a success and he says he’s feeling great.

“I can go back to my normal life, doing the things I was always doing,” he says.

“Theoretically, we will never have to operate again, and he will go on with his active lifestyle for decades,” Orsini adds.

The former Razorback is offering this advice to everyone.

“Be proactive with your healthcare. That is so important, proactive, and don’t take it lightly,” says Calcagni.

The most common symptom of mitral valve prolapse is shortness of breath.

If you start to experience this during regular activities, schedule a visit with your doctor.

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