Dan Romes - Harrison, MI
"All nine people who were going to be involved in my surgery came into pre-op...I could tell they are truly a team."
He Found Great Health Care Near His New Home
When Dan Romes was diagnosed with a heart murmur in 2004, he knew he did not have to be overly concerned about it. "My primary care physician in Alabama followed me over the years," he said. However, 13 years later, an echocardiogram indicated his condition was getting worse. "I had no symptoms but the valve was leaking more and more. It was time to take action."
Dan and his late wife were snowbirds for many years. They wintered in the south and spent their summers in Harrison. Their working years were spent in Kalamazoo where they had raised a family and he had enjoyed a career as a civil engineer. After his wife passed away, he returned to Harrison, his boyhood home. He was in the midst of moving when he got the news about needing a new heart valve.
"I had doctors down south and in Kalamazoo but I was new again to this area and needed to find someone," he said. A referral for Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgeon Robert Jones, M.D., came from an unexpected, but trusted, source.
"My barber recommended Dr. Jones," Dan said. "He'd had the same problem and Dr. Jones was his surgeon. If you can't believe your barber, who can you believe?"
Dan was first referred to MyMichigan Health's Heart Valve Clinic. In his case, they coordinated and conducted pre-surgery testing in preparation for open heart surgery. "I had a lot of interaction with the folks in the Clinic and the entire staff is just great," he said.
It was there that he learned he was a candidate for a newer, less invasive procedure known as transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), an option for patients who may not be able to tolerate open heart surgery. TAVR 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.
Because the procedure is minimally invasive, patients usually heal more quickly. On the other hand, TAVR is not appropriate for every patient. It is a more complex surgery, carries its own set of risks and requires the involvement of a multidisciplinary team of specialists representing the areas of interventional cardiology, advanced cardiac imaging and cardiothoracic surgery.
Each patient who needs valve replacement is evaluated by a multidisciplinary committee. "They discuss the pros and cons and make a recommendation," Dan said. "In my case, they agreed that TAVR was the best choice."
After briefly weighing his options, Dan agreed to the new procedure and the date was set for Nov. 7. Interventional Cardiologist Maged Rizk, M.D., Ph.D., would perform the procedure alongside a team including an advanced imaging specialist and a cardiovascular surgeon. "He did very well with the preliminaries," Dan said. "He had clearly explained what they were going to do and how they were going to do it."
Dan said that MyMichigan has created an outstanding team and a unique – and much appreciated – protocol. "Before the procedure, all the people who were going to be involved in my procedure came into pre-op. I got to meet every one of them," he said. "I've never heard of that before. I was really impressed."
After the successful procedure, Dan woke up in recovery and again noted the well-coordinated teamwork. "The atmosphere was great," he said. "Everyone knew what their job was and they did it well. They had me up and walking that night. The next day I was walking the halls. The next morning, I was going up and down stairs."
After two nights at MyMichigan Medical Center Midland, Dan returned home to recuperate. One of his four children lives nearby and he stayed with him for a few days. "My barber told me he had no pain at any time and he had open heart surgery," he said. "By the same token, I experienced absolutely no pain at all."
For Dan, the decision to have TAVR instead of traditional surgery was made quickly but not lightly. "The big difference is they have 40 years of experience with open heart surgery and only a couple of years with the new procedure," he said.
On the other hand, the 85-year-old Dan, a U.S. Navy veteran, knew there were also risks with traditional surgery. "I trusted their judgment, expertise and experience," he said. "I look at it this way: They don't tell me how to do my engineering, and I don't tell them how to do surgery."
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.