Three hearts, three heart surgeries, three people who love each other dearly: Meet the Bowman family of Winterport.
Last February, Joan Bowman underwent cardiac surgery at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. When Joan was in her 20s, her sister, Kathy, lost her life to aortic dissection, caused by the connective tissue-disorder known as Marfan syndrome. Marfan’s particularly affects vision, causing lens detachment, and heart function, causing aortic defects.
After Kathy’s death, doctors monitored Joan for a heart murmur from mitral valve prolapse that she had had since childhood. There was no method for detecting Marfan’s syndrome in those years.
Daniel Bowman, David and Joan’s son, was born in 1990. His heart murmur was discovered when he was 2, and cardiologists started treating him then. When Daniel was 4, Joan’s mitral valve leaked so badly that cardiologists recommended surgery to correct the situation.
“When they first suggested surgery, we were devastated,” Joan Bowman said. “I was afraid I would not be here to raise my son.”
A second opinion at John Hopkins determined that surgery was not necessary, so Joan met with the hospital’s specialists every five years as they monitored her condition.
Meanwhile, David Bowman developed rheumatoid arthritis. He treated crippling flare-ups as they occurred, with the latest flare-up forcing him to take short-term disability leave from work.
In 2002, Daniel Bowman underwent cardiac surgery at Johns Hopkins to replace two heart valves and repair an aneurysm. The Bowmans enjoyed a four-year respite from additional surgeries until the day in 2006 when Joan, while resting her head on David’s chest, heard a “funny heartbeat.”
David Bowman subsequently underwent open-heart surgery for single valve replacement. “There is no family history of heart problems so, crazy as this may sound, I got my heart problem by osmosis. It’s sympathetic,” he said.
At age 16, Daniel Bowman underwent eye surgery. Now a lanky 22-year-old senior at the University of Maine, he recalled not being able to see the chalkboard or a projection screen when he was in school years ago.
Then in November 2011, Joan Bowman experienced atrial fibrillation. Commonly called “a-fib,” this cardiac-rhythm disturbance can cause a stroke — and it meant that Joan’s heart had deteriorated to the point that surgery was required.
The Bowmans headed to Johns Hopkins again.
Today, Joan Bowman continues recovering from her eight-hour February surgery, which repaired two heart valves and an aortic aneurysm. Daniel Bowman is thriving; his father awaits another heart procedure intended to control the 29,000 premature ventricular contractions that he experiences daily.
“You say, ‘How many more things are going to happen to us?’ But God has seen us through it all,” Joan Bowman said.
The Bowmans face steadily mounting medical bills. “We’ve accepted the fact that this is our life, facing well over $10,000 in current bills even though we have insurance,” David Bowman said.
To help raise funds to offset those medical bills, a benefit titled “Open Hearts for John & Dave” will take place from 6-9 p.m., Sunday, June 24, at the Church of the Open Door, 270 Main Road North, Hampden. The benefit will feature a silent auction, a dessert coffeehouse, and a concert by NEVAH. Admission is $5 per adult and $20 per family; donations can also be made by check to “Joan or Dave Bowman” at Bowman Fund, P.O. Box 761, Winterport, ME 04496.
For more information, contact Karen Reynolds at (207) 356-5166.