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Wilson Gay, TAVR Patient

Wilson Gay - Midland, MI

"The physicians are incredible, the facilities are excellent, and they have an exceptional staff. The care I received was simply outstanding."

He's Thankful a Complex Heart Procedure is Available Close to Home

For Wilson Gay, 2017 was a busy year. It started in February when the 89-year-old was taken to the Emergency Department at MyMichigan Medical Center Midland, where he was treated for complications from congestive heart failure. While there, he was fortunate enough to meet and be treated by Interventional Cardiologist Andrzej Boguszewski, M.D.

"They decided they needed to put some stents in," Gay said. "It took a total of three surgeries – they had to repair one stent and then I had to be treated for a clot. In the process, they discovered that my left aortic valve had eroded over time and I needed a new one."

In Gay's case, the valve had degraded simply due to age. In most cases, valve replacement would mean open heart surgery. "They decided early on that I couldn't handle it," he said. "It was a matter of trying to heal after the fact. The doctors decided the healing process would be just too slow."

Besides his age, Gay had other health issues that limited his options. "I'm diabetic and my kidneys don't function at 100 percent,” he said. "I had to wait between operations for my kidneys to reestablish themselves."

While open heart surgery was out of the question, Gay was told he could have the valve replaced via a newer, less invasive procedure known as transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR). It is available for certain patients like Gay who may not be able to tolerate traditional 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.

Dr. Boguszewski replaced Gay's valve on August 8, 2017, alongside a team including an advanced imaging specialist and a cardiovascular surgeon. "The TAVR experience was rather unremarkable," he said. "Maybe I just got used to being a guest in the operating room or whatever, but the procedure was simple from my point of view."

Gay said all four of the procedures he underwent in 2017 were minimally invasive. "Of the four operations, two went through an artery in the groin and two were through the wrist," he said.

"I won't say the TAVR procedure was simple because it is very complex," Gay said. "For me it was the easiest of the procedures. They wheeled me in, Dr. Boguszewski talked with me, told me what would happen and the next thing I knew, they wheeled me into recovery."

After two nights at MyMichigan Medical Center Midland, Gay went home to finish recuperating. "I had restrictions of course – no driving and no lifting – but I was encouraged to walk as much as possible," he said.

Less than four months later, he was doing well enough to go hunting and bagged two deer. He also hauled them out of the woods, hung and butchered them as well. "I get around with no difficulty," he said. "I'm in fine shape." He carries a cane as a precaution. "I'm careful when I walk and I have never fallen."

Gay offered this advice regarding valve replacement. "To anybody who can qualify for TAVR, my recommendation is get it done, the sooner the better," he said. "It's a painless experience and it was a non-event for me. Among the four procedures, TAVR was the easiest and simplest for me, yet I know it is very complicated."

He is grateful to have such complex surgery available in his hometown. "Those of us in Midland are extremely fortunate to have the quality of care that we enjoy here," Gay said. "The physicians are incredible, the facilities are excellent and they have an exceptional staff. The care I received was simply outstanding."

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.

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