A New Lease on Life

Jeanenne Hatletvedt remembers the first moment she could breathe easily.

For the past few years, the simple act of filling her lungs with air had become harder and harder. Doctors had told her that the aortic valve in her heart was failing, but there was nothing they could do.

The 75-yearold woman is a cancer survivor, having had chemotherapy three times in the past seven years and hospitalizations for reoccurring cases of pneumonia. For the past year she’s lived her life hooked to an oxygen tank, struggling to get enough breath to walk across her living room.

“They told me I’d never survive surgery, but I had to have that valve replaced,” she says, as her Yorkie puppy, Brady sits by, licking her hand. “Without the surgery I wouldn’t live a year.”

A new technology

So when Jeanenne heard about a new procedure available at Sanford Health that could replace her heart valve with only a minor incision, she was ready. The only surprise was how quickly she noticed a difference.

“I woke up and I said, ‘I can breathe! I can breathe!’” she says, with a wide smile, describing how the nurses had to talk her into putting her post surgery oxygen tubes back on her face. “I felt so good, I’d have walked right out of the hospital if they would have let me.”

Sanford Heart Hospital in Sioux Falls is the only health system in the region to perform the new transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) procedure, approved less than a year ago by the US Food and Drug Administration. Sanford Health in Sioux Falls and Fargo are among only about 100 facilities nationwide with the equipment and expertise to do this lifesaving operation.

On September 10, Jeanenne was one of the first patients in Sioux Falls to undergo TAVR. To see a video animation of the procedure, click here

The new technology, which is available only to patients like Jeanenne who are unable to undergo traditional open heart surgery, replaces the failing heart valve with a collapsible artificial valve placed using a catheter inserted through the leg and threaded up to the heart. The collapsible Edwards SAPIEN Valve is the only valve to receive FDA approval from the for the TAVR procedure.

An easy decision

Jeanenne had been waiting several months for the operation, watching her life shrink in many ways. She went from being an active nurse, who ran her own home health care business to being able to walk only a few steps at a time, tethered to her portable oxygen tank.

“It’s depressing and degrading to have to go places with the oxygen,” says Jeanenne. “I knew it was something that I had to have, but I hated it.”

When Jeanenne heard that a multidisciplinary team that included interventional cardiologists, cardiothoracic surgeons and vascular surgeons were preparing to start doing the groundbreaking procedure at Sanford Health, she didn’t hesitate. She knew only the doctors at Sanford could save her life.

Her physicians carefully explained how the procedure would work, the way they could replace her heart valve without having to open her chest. After years in the medical field, she was amazed that the complicated repair was possible, but she trusted the expertise of interventional cardiologists Dr. Tom Stys and Dr. Adam Stys, she says.

“I wanted Dr. Adam Stys to do that surgery,” she says, “I said I’d be happy to be there for the first day.”

The last thing she remembers before the procedure was telling her family goodbye. When she woke up, she felt better than she had in years. In fact, she couldn’t even locate the tiny incision spots in her legs where the catheters went in until hospital staff showed her.

Her kiss of thanks

Jeanenne was so pleased to meet the team of experts in the hospital she even asked if she could give one doctor a kiss on the cheek. She had helped both of her parents recuperate from open heart surgery and couldn’t believe how much easier she bounced back from the procedure.

“I thought it was a miracle,” Jeanenne says. “I walked that first day out of surgery more than I had done for years.”

After three days in the hospital, she was home, feeling better than ever. She can join friends for book club and playing cards, and she’s decorating the new home she moved to shortly before the surgery with her collection of seasonal décor.

Only months after being told that she wouldn’t live a year without surgery, Jeanenne is living her life better than ever. It’s all due to the healing hands at Sanford Heart, she says.

“This saved my life, but it also gave me my life back,” Jeanenne says. “I can never thank them enough. They really did it. ”

To learn more about this new lifesaving procedure, go to heart.sanfordhealth.org or call Sanford Heart Hospital at (605) 312-2200.

Posted Date: November 2012

A New Lease on Life

Jeanenne Hatletvedt knew her heart was failing, but her body was too frail to survive traditional surgery. How would a groundbreaking new technique to replace her heart valve save her life?