Herman Thomas, of Mobile, is 83 years old, and has no plans of slowing down.
"Well a lot of golf, working the yard, whatever comes along...I stay busy...in fact I played 18 holes of golf this morning," Herman Thomas said in his interview with FOX10 News.
But when he was having some problems breathing, getting headaches, and feeling dizzy he knew something was wrong. The culprit? Calcium deposits in his aortic valve.
"It reached a point where it needed to be taken care of," Thomas explained.
A team of heart specialists at Springhill Medical center and Cardiology Associates determined he was a candidate for TAVR short for Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement.
It's a minimally invasive procedure to replace a narrowed aortic valve that fails to open properly (aortic valve stenosis).
The aortic valve is a valve that sits at the top of the heart. It's about the size of a quarter — and all the blood in the heart comes out of that valve. Aortic valve stenosis — or aortic stenosis — occurs when the heart's aortic valve narrows. This narrowing prevents the valve from opening fully, which obstructs blood flow from your heart into your aorta and onward to the rest of your body. Aortic stenosis can cause chest pain, fainting, fatigue, leg swelling and shortness of breath. It may also lead to heart failure and sudden cardiac death.
TAVR may be an option if you have aortic stenosis that causes signs and symptoms. For instance, people who are candidates for TAVR may include those who are considered at intermediate or high risk of complications from surgical aortic valve replacement. Conditions that may increase the risk of surgical aortic valve replacement include lung disease or kidney disease — which increase your risk of complications during surgical aortic valve replacement.
During TAVR, doctors may access your heart through a blood vessel in your leg, using a x-ray video camera to guide the catheter through your blood vessels, to your heart and into your aortic valve. Once it's precisely positioned, a balloon is expanded to press the replacement valve into place in the native aortic valve
"This stent has the valve sewn into it and in response to inflating the balloon with saline the stent will re-expand in place then once we're done we just pull that balloon out and the valve stays in place," said Dr John Michael Galla, of Cardiology Associates.
Dr. Galla says TAVR is great for people not really wanting to have their chest cut open. Usually valve replacement requires an open heart procedure with a “sternotomy.”, in which the chest is surgically separated (open) for the procedure. The TAVR procedures can be done through very small openings that leave all the chest bones in place.
A TAVR procedure is not without risks, but it provides beneficial treatment options to people who may not have been candidates for them a few years ago while also providing the added bonus of a faster recovery in most cases. A patient's experience with a TAVR procedure may be comparable to a balloon treatment in terms of down time and recovery, and will likely require a shorter hospital stay (average 3-5 days).
The TAVR procedure is performed using one of two different approaches, allowing the cardiologist or surgeon to choose which one provides the best and safest way to access the valve:Entering through the femoral artery (large artery in the groin), called the transfemoral approach, which does not require a surgical incision in the chest or Using a minimally invasive surgical approach with a small incision in the chest and entering through a large artery in the chest or through the tip of the left ventricle (the apex), which is known as the transapical approach.
After a day or two hospital stay patients are sent on their way, with some changes to their lifestyle. But for Thomas, who's now fully recovered, it's back to doing what he loves...golf at his favorite club.
"I'm a partial starter been there since 1994 At magnolia grove."