Geraldine’s Story

102-Year-Old Patient is Feeling ‘Pretty Good’ After Successful TAVR Procedure

Geraldine Pekar

Geraldine Pekar must be doing something right. She’s a spunky 102-year-old who recently became a patient of University Hospitals Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute. But prior to her recent stay, she didn’t have any major health issues and was on very few medications. We pledged to treat her condition and get her home to her family as quickly as possible, and that’s just what we did.

Geraldine was admitted to UH Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute in December 2015. She had experienced dizziness, syncopal episodes (passing out) and had shortness of breath. Tests confirmed that she was suffering from aortic valve stenosis, which is essentially a blocked heart valve. Valves ensure that blood passing through the heart flows only in one direction, and when one becomes narrowed or blocked due to calcification, patients often pass out and/or experience shortness of breath. Aortic valve stenosis is progressive over many years and is often found in older patients.

For many years, there was only one treatment for severe aortic valve stenosis: invasive open heart surgery. But recently, the Valve & Structural Heart Disease Center at UH Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute began offering prohibitive and high-risk patients the option of an innovative procedure called transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR. A replacement valve is implanted in a catheter that is placed in the patient’s leg and led up to their heart. Once in place, the new valve expands and pushes the diseased tissue away, restoring blood flow. At UH, this procedure is performed in a minimally invasive manner, which is not the case at many other hospitals in the U.S. Here, patients are under “twilight” sedation and are awake and talking during the procedure. This approach enables our physicians to achieve their desired results while minimizing patient invasion and reducing length of hospitalization.

“I was scared,” said Geraldine. “You only have one heart, and they were going to tinker around with mine.” Interventional cardiologist Guilherme Attizzani, MD, understood Geraldine’s fears and reassured her that the procedure was safe and that it would help her to continue living a full life, without the exhaustion and shortness of breath that had been plaguing her.

“Aortic valve stenosis is a disease that debilitates patients and prevents them from being physically active,” said Angela Davis, RN, BSN, Clinical Research Nurse Coordinator for the Structural Heart Program at UH Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute. “For many patients, even taking a few steps is quite challenging.”

The TAVR procedure was successfully performed on Geraldine on Dec. 8. She was discharged a week later to a skilled nursing facility for physical and occupational therapy, and is now living comfortably at home with her son, Kenneth.

At a recent postoperative visit, Geraldine was back to her spunky self. “I feel pretty good,” she said. “My doctor put a new valve in my heart. Now, I just wish I was a little younger.”

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