Hi Jenny, I had my aortic valve replaced almost 3 years ago when I was 37. I have congenital heart disease, born with bicuspid aortic valve. I also have an aortic aneurysm, but was unable to have it repaired with my valve replacement due to other complications.
My replacement was through open Heart Surgery. I was in the ICU for 16 hours and then went to step down and went home on day 4. By week 7 post-op, I ran/walked a mile. I couldn't have done that prior to surgery. Although I was totally healthy going in, I didn't realize how bad I felt until I didn't feel bad anymore :)
I was able to run 4 5k races within my first year following surgery and I continue to be very active, with different strength training and conditioning. I was even able to climb up the Cotopoxi volcano to 16,000 feet the year after my surgery.
I went with a bio prosthetic valve, bovine. I didn't feel mechanical was a good choice for me, as with my active lifestyle and also having Crohn's disease, I didn't want to live on the blood thinners. Once I decided tissue, I let my surgeon choose what kind.
Best of luck Jenny and feel free to ask any other questions!