Tuesday, March 11, 2014

TAVR: 'It almost made me new again'

Ira Dove, seen here with nurse Joanie Seale, went through an intensive cardiac rehabilitation program after becoming CoxHealth’s oldest recipient of a transcatheter aortic valve replacement.

At age 95, Ira Dove wasn’t ready to slow down. Thanks to the TAVR heart procedure, he hasn’t had to.

Ira Dove may be in his mid-90s, but he’s still surprised any time he finds himself moving more slowly.

About a year ago, he noticed he was having more trouble breathing and it was getting difficult to walk even short distances.

“I wasn’t doing too good. I was getting weaker all the time,” he recalls. “I walked between ‘rest stops’ – leaning on a bucket, or a stump, whatever was handy.”

He had experienced some heart issues and had advanced aortic stenosis. He was enjoying life and he wanted to do whatever it took to stay active. Physicians had done what they could with medications and because of his advanced age, he wasn’t a candidate for a traditional valve replacement.

That’s when his cardiologist, Dr. Joseph Hills, suggested a new procedure that might be able to help. Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) is a new procedure at CoxHealth in which surgeons replace a patient’s aortic valve via catheter. CoxHealth has performed the procedure since last spring in the new hybrid operating room at Cox South.

For elderly patients like Mr. Dove, the procedure is a welcome alternative to open heart surgery.

“He made me aware of the risks and what could go wrong, and I appreciated that,” Dove says. “I said, ‘sign me up.’”

Dove had the procedure in June and after a quick three-day hospital stay, the difference became obvious.

“It almost made me new again,” he says with a laugh. He underwent cardiac rehab, which played a big role in getting him strong again. “I could breathe again. Before, I didn’t think I’d last to Christmas. But now I feel 100 percent better.”

Mr. Dove’s daughter, Sharon, a retired nurse, had seen her dad’s condition decline in the months before the procedure. She worried for his future and she knew something would have to be done.

“We realized this was the only chance he had for any quality of life,” she says. “At his age, anything could happen. We had prayed about it and we trusted that God would take care of things and that he had led us to the right people.”

Physicians had told Mr. Dove and Sharon that he was on the margin of being a good candidate for TAVR. The fact that he is active and engaged swayed them to “yes.” They wanted to do everything possible to help him have a good quality of life.

“That’s what worried me – I need to be able to do things,” he says. “I like to read, and I keep up with politics. I may be slowing down, but I’m still able to go.”

Mr. Dove enjoys the outdoors and after the TAVR procedure he’s been able to spend more time outside.

“I’ve deer hunted for a number of years. I raised all of my boys taking them deer hunting and we’ve finally gotten to where they had to take dad out deer hunting,” he says with a laugh. He made it to the woods last fall, where he bagged a doe. “I told Dr. Hills, I’m planning on going again next fall.”

In the meantime, Mr. Dove is attending church (“Heckling the pastor every chance he gets,” Sharon says), reading everything he can get his hands on and spending time with his kids, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

He’s also planning his garden for this spring – tomatoes, peppers, radishes, cucumbers and squash.

“Pulling weeds was the first job I ever had,” he says. “As long as I’m living, I’ll probably garden.”

Working outside and being able to breathe easier are everyday reminders of the improvement the TAVR procedure has made.

“If anybody is in the same situation, I would recommend it. You couldn’t go anywhere and find a better staff than here – they were wonderful,” Mr. Dove says. “We were always treated with respect and this was well worth it.”

About TAVR

More than 15 transcatheter aortic valve replacements have now been performed in CoxHealth’s hybrid OR. Aortic stenosis, which narrows the opening of the aortic valve and inhibits blood flow, is a common problem.

The TAVR procedure allows the insertion of a new aortic valve through a catheter placed in the groin or the chest. TAVR is beneficial for patients who are too frail for open-heart surgery.