New Heart Procedure Renews Life … at 87
The sparkle in her eyes and the spring in her step tell the story. After a summer of noticeably declining energy, 87-year-old Alice Braniff feels lucky to get back to her active life.
“To be able to walk around and feel good -- absolutely that’s a great thing,” she says.
She feels lucky to be living in Fargo, too. Sanford Health had the expertise and technology she desperately needed for her failing heart valve. And it didn’t require open heart surgery.
Sanford is one of approximately 100 heart programs in the country qualified to perform the procedure -- and the only one in North Dakota and South Dakota.
What is aortic stenosis?
Alice’s failing valve was caused by aortic stenosis -- narrowing or closing of an aortic valve. Facts include:
“I didn’t have any heart pain or shortness of breath, but I sure did notice a drop in energy,” says Alice. “All of a sudden, I didn’t have pep like I used to. I didn’t feel like doing anything anymore.”
An echoecardiogram -- a painless heart test -- showed Alice’s heart valve had narrowed considerably. The opening was about one-fourth what it should be.
“You can imagine how hard my heart had to work to push that blood through,” she says. “It’s no wonder I didn’t have much energy left for anything else.”
Groundbreaking technology now available
The traditional approach to an ailing heart valve involves open heart surgery to replace it.But often people with severe AS are ineligible to undergo such an extensive surgery due to advanced age and several medical conditions.
A consultation with Dr. Roxanne Newman, Sanford heart surgeon, indicated Alice was not a candidate for open heart surgery.
“But then Dr. Haldis told me about something else that could help,” says Alice. “It was mystifying, but I just kept listening. The more you listen, the more you learn.”
Dr. Thomas Haldis, interventional cardiologist, explained a new procedure for replacing a heart valve -- and it can be done without open heart surgery.
“Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement” (TAVR) involves threading a catheter -- a long, flexible tube -- through the leg and up to the heart. The catheter contains a collapsible heart valve that replaces the ailing valve.
Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, TAVR offers hope and more years of quality life for people with severe AS. Research shows that without valve replacement, these patients often don’t survive more than two years.
Alice was well aware the technology was new, but she didn't fear it. She weighed the risks and went ahead.
“I trusted Dr. Haldis and his team,” she says. “If something is available that can help people, let’s go for it. Let’s make life better!”
TAVR is also available in Sioux Falls. Both locations have the multidisciplinary team necessary in performing the complex procedure. They’ve also received the comprehensive training essential to success.
“A different world”
Alice underwent the minimally invasive procedure on August 24, becoming the fifth patient in Fargo to benefit from TAVR.
“I felt the difference right away,” she says. “I had so much more energy and a better appetite, too.” After four days in the hospital, she was back in her senior-living apartment with Donald, her husband of 56 years.
At Dr. Haldis’ recommendation, Alice now participates in twice-a-week exercise at Sanford Outpatient Cadiac Rehab in Fargo She also plans to work one-on-one with a physical therapist for added strengthening and conditioning.
“And I definitely need to get my walking in!” says Alice. “I’ve been instructed to go 30 minutes a day.”
For Alice, the new valve technology has opened the door to renewed life, whether she’s playing bridge, enjoying family, visiting friends .... or just taking a walk.
“It’s a different world when you have your pep back,” she says. “You feel like you’re alive!”
Posted Date: November 2012