Heading Off Heart Failure

BIDMC Contributor

FEBRUARY 01, 2021

Valerie with her dog

It's early November, and Valerie has just returned from her daily walk with her new rescue dog, Sophie. The two venture out each morning for an hour-long trip around Valerie's Quincy Center neighborhood, in every type of weather.

"Sophie loves to walk, and so do I," says Valerie. "Walking is one of my passions." It's hard to believe that the active and upbeat 73-year-old was a patient in BIDMC's Structural Heart Center just four and a half months ago. Valerie underwent transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), a procedure to replace her damaged heart valve.

"I'm feeling great," says Valerie. "The day after I had the TAVR, I was walking along the hospital corridor, and I said, 'Wow, this is the new me.' I felt like I did 10 years ago."

A Challenging Period

It has been an extremely challenging few years for the lifelong Quincy resident and mother of three. In 2017, after losing her husband of 48 years, Valerie faced her own health problems.

For several years, her cardiologist had been keeping a close eye on her heart's aortic valve, which had been growing narrower, putting undue strain on her heart. The condition, known as aortic stenosis, often leads to breathlessness and fatigue. The narrowing prevents the valve from opening fully, which reduces blood flow from the heart into the body. Left untreated, aortic stenosis can lead to heart failure, a condition in which the heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet the body's needs.

"Earlier this year, when the doctors told me that it was time to have the aortic valve replaced before there was any further damage, I was petrified."

A Good Candidate for TAVR

Valerie was referred to the Structural Heart Center at BIDMC.

"She was an excellent candidate for TAVR," says Roger Laham, MD, Director of the Structural Heart Center. "TAVR provides patients with a minimally-invasive alternative to aortic valve replacement surgery, meaning a shorter hospitalization and recovery time." The approximately 90-minute procedure involves a multidisciplinary team from the Structural Heart Center, including an interventional cardiologist and a cardiac surgeon.

"They knew I was worried about a stroke and carefully explained to me all the different steps they would be taking to prevent that from happening," says Valerie.

"As much as possible, it's important that patients are free of stress and feel safe and cared for," says Kimberly Guibone, DNP, Structural Heart Lead Nurse Practitioner. "We want to make sure that patients' questions are fully answered and that they have a good understanding of what will happen during the procedure."

Restrictions put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic meant that Valerie's children were unable to visit her in the hospital following the TAVR.  "It was hard not having my kids there with me, but I can't say enough good things about the doctors and nurses and staff," says Valerie. "They put my mind at ease. They were fantastic."

And when Valerie was discharged, it wasn't only her son and daughters waiting for her. "Sophie's tail started whipping around, and she came running at me and almost knocked me over," she remembers. "I was home."

BIDMC is carefully evaluating each patient’s needs and continuing to perform TAVRs for cases that cannot be delayed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Learn more about the BIDMC Structural Heart Center.

Above content provided by the CardioVascular Institute at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.
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