Brenda Coe - Alma, MI
"We had a really positive experience with the people at the Heart Valve Clinic. They have done so well by us."
For Patient with Parkinson's Disease, TAVR Procedure Was A Life-Saver
Two years ago, Brenda Coe of Alma was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. While news of this serious, chronic condition was unsettling, Brenda, now 77, and her husband, Bert, knew they could face the challenge together.
That same year, 2015, while they were just beginning to learn all they could about Parkinson's disease, their family doctor discovered Brenda also had a heart murmur.
"After a lot of testing, they found out the heart murmur was caused by stenosis," Bert said. In addition to Parkinson's, his wife was suffering from aortic stenosis, a disease that narrows the heart's aortic valve, which is crucial for blood circulation. "Doctors told us that without replacing the valve, two years was about all I had left," Brenda said.
The couple began to work with the team at MyMichigan Health's Heart Valve Clinic. The Clinic is based on best practices for treating patients with heart valve disease, and the program is specifically designed to evaluate patients for advanced heart valve treatment.
Many people who need a heart valve replacement undergo open heart surgery. In Brenda's case, however, that was not an option. "They were not sure how someone with Parkinson's would react to traditional surgery," she said. "They decided it was just too risky."
Instead, the couple was told about a new, minimally-invasive procedure – transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) – that might work for Brenda. The procedure 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. While not suitable for all patients, TAVR provides an alternative to traditional surgery for patients like Brenda. It has been proven to consistently lengthen a patient's life, and improve their quality of life.
"We didn't realize there was such a thing as TAVR," Bert said. "We read up on it so we would know what to expect." The couple has tremendous respect for the experts at the Heart Valve Clinic and looked to them for guidance. "They know what they're doing, so we listened and followed their advice."
On October 4, 2016, Brenda was the 10th person to undergo TAVR at MyMichigan Medical Center Midland. Her primary surgeon was Interventional Cardiologist Andrzej Boguszewski, M.D. "She was only in the hospital for two days," Bert said. "We had great people looking after her. We had no complaints at all."
Because TAVR is minimally invasive, patients usually recover more quickly. While Brenda healed well, the Parkinson's disease delayed her rehabilitation a bit. Several days each week she uses a treadmill at home, working in small increments, toward a goal of 30 minutes of walking.
Bert said Brenda continues to make steady progress. "My job is to make sure she has her cane," he said. "That's the only device needed so far and that has nothing to do with the heart surgery."
For Bert and Brenda, the support from the Heart Valve Clinic was vital. "We had a really positive experience with the people at the Heart Valve Clinic," Bert said. "They have done so well by us. They call and check-up on Brenda and they are so responsive to questions. Annette Fruge in particular was always there for us or would call us back right away. They are great."
While they acknowledge that the last couple of years have been a challenge, Bert and Brenda are grateful for the people and resources available to them through MyMichigan Health. "We learned a lot of things that we never wanted to have to learn, but we're still here," Bert said. "We chose life and had TAVR. That's the important thing."
MyMichigan Health offers a full array of heart and vascular services, including open heart surgery, advanced vascular surgery, electrophysiology for heart rhythm problems and advanced interventional procedures. For additional information on MyMichigan's comprehensive cardiovascular team, visit www.mymichigan.org/heart.