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Don Crawford, TAVR Patient

Don Crawford - Sanford, MI

"That doctor was really nice, and he did a good job."

Advanced Heart Valve Procedure Helped Him Breathe with Ease Again

81-year-old Donald Crawford Sr. of Sanford has seen and experienced many things over the years. He has understandably slowed down after raising his kids and retiring from work. But when his breathing started deteriorating and his energy level dropped, he wasn't ready to just chalk it up to growing old.

Initially, doctors went after the usual suspects for breathing and energy problems. Sleep apnea was suspected for a while. Crawford was given a C-PAP machine to wear while he slept in an attempt to remedy his situation. However, his respiration and energy levels continued to get worse.

After a while, Crawford's condition was hardly tolerable. "I could hardly breathe and I didn't have any energy," he remembers. Daily life became a struggle. For a while, he wasn't even able to drive his car. Suspecting a heart problem, his primary care provider referred him to Interventional Cardiologist Andrzej Boguszewski, M.D.

After undergoing a series of tests, Crawford was diagnosed with aortic stenosis – narrowing of his aortic valve. In Crawford's case, the valve that controls blood flow from the heart into the aorta was much smaller than it should be. When the aortic valve is constricted, blood flow is severely hindered. The heart has to beat harder to make up for this reduced capacity, and eventually the heart muscles can become worn out.

In cases of aortic stenosis, circulation throughout the entire body is impacted. Symptoms include shortness of breath, lack of energy, feeling cold and tingling, or weakness in the extremities. It is common for symptoms such as these to be overlooked as simply signs of aging.

By the time he was diagnosed, Crawford's breathing had become so difficult that he required hospitalization. He could barely breathe by the time he arrived at MyMichigan Medical Center Midland. Once there, he actually stopped breathing entirely. At three separate points during that harrowing visit, Crawford lost consciousness. The doctors rushed to get him hooked up to a ventilator and revive him.

On September 4th, Crawford underwent a minimally-invasive procedure known as transcatheter aortic valve replacement - or TAVR - to replace his aortic valve. This procedure, which is less invasive than traditional heart valve replacement surgery, involves using a catheter to insert an artificial aortic valve through an artery in the neck, leg or between the ribs, and placing it inside the patient's diseased heart valve while the heart is still beating. Due the complexity of the procedure, it requires the involvement of a multi-disciplinary team of specialists, including a cardiac imaging specialist, an interventional cardiologist and a cardiovascular surgeon.

Following his procedure, Crawford was surprised by just how smooth his overall recovery went. "It didn't hurt at all," he said. He also expressed his appreciation for the care he received from Dr. Boguszewski and the entire heart valve team. "They were very caring and did a wonderful job," he said. According to Crawford, the rest of the staff and nurses also showed the same high standard of care and bedside manner.

Just two months later, Crawford is returning to his normal self. "I can breathe well again," he said. Though still on the mend, Crawford is already beginning to do things that had been difficult prior to the surgery. As of the two-month point, he has been able to walk around with just the assistance of a cane. Before too long, he will be out enjoying improved energy, vitality and a new lease on life. "I couldn't be more pleased," he said enthusiastically.

Those who have been diagnosed with moderate to severe or severe aortic stenosis are encouraged to talk with their primary care provider about treatment options. Those who would like more information about the TAVR procedure or MyMichigan's Heart Valve Clinic may visit www.mymichigan.org/heartvalveclinic.

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