Medicine: Fixing a Leaky Valve

The student nurse was still in her teens when rheumatic fever struck. She made an average recovery, but the infection had raged around the aortic valve, through which the heart's blood passes to the great artery for distribution to the rest of the body. As the inflammation died down, the healing valve tissues became scarred and failed to close. Instead of a one-way pulsing flow of blood, there was an unsteady flow with a backwash. For a dozen years the patient got along with rest and digitalis, but six months ago she became much worse. Anginal pain and failing strength forced...

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