Breaking Records and Expectations, 31 Years Post-Op

31 years after a double heart valve replacement, Seth has set the record straight on what his life can be.

Breaking Records and Expectations, 31 Years Post-Op

Healthy Heart|Aug.22, 2022

Since the day he was born, Seth Wharton has defied all expectations.

At 1 day old, the doctors and family surrounding Seth weren’t expecting his chest to be as large as it was.

As an adult, he wasn’t expected to become a collegiate basketball player, run 5ks or be able to benchpress.

He grew up under the watchful eye of people telling him what he would and wouldn’t be able to accomplish. How far he’d be able to go. He was told he’d never be able to lift more than a hundred pounds, run a mile or work construction with his dad. 

Why? Because 1-day-old Seth’s enlarged chest was caused by his enlarged heart from severe aortic stenosis, sending him on a lifelong journey entailing three open-heart surgeries, six cardiac catheterizations, five blood clots, S.B.E subacute bacterial endocarditis and two heart valve replacements.

The first surgery, when Seth was just 1 month old, was expected to clear his heart valve (broadening the “pinhole” sized opening that was keeping him alive) enough to avoid a valve replacement.

The second, when Seth was 5, was expected to provide a solution that would last him to adulthood.

The third, when Seth was 13, entailed the double heart valve replacement that would (with the help of his doctors and Abbott's aortic and mitral mechanical heart valves) irreversibly change his life, but his life wasn’t expected to be that of the average person. He was told there’d be limits on what he could do. As his care team’s first double valve replacement patient, they weren’t sure what to expect. They chose to err on the side of caution.

Seth still remembers when his care team told his family that he couldn’t play church league basketball. “My dad pushed back,” he recalled. “He didn’t want me to be a boy in a bubble.”

Then it was karate. Then weightlifting. Then rec-league basketball. “It was hard to keep me down as a kid,” Seth said. “But I tried to be careful. My mom would sit on the sidelines praying.” 

In less than a decade after his double valve replacement, he was a college basketball player, weightlifter and runner. He defied the expectations of his doctors and, at times, even himself. Now, he’s a husband, a father of four who runs 5k races, skis and plays tennis with his kids in his spare time, a hospice chaplain and a healthy adult. Seth is "thankful for God sparing my life and for the Abbott valve devices," he said. "I'm willing to share my story with whoever would like to hear it."

Seth himself didn’t expect to set a Guinness World Record either. But sure enough, in 2021, he became the official record-holder for the longest survivor of an artificial double heart valve replacement at 31 years and 238 days post-op, posing with his certificate for the front page of his hometown newspaper on Christmas day. 

At 45, he defies all expectations of how someone with a double heart valve replacement should live.