Beverly Harris moved to Statesboro recently from Tennessee. Last month, she began to experience shortness of breath, fatigue and an inability to do the things she used to do.
A visit to her local cardiologist revealed her symptoms were being caused by a calcified aortic valve that would not open — an unusual condition. Her condition, however, was made worse because Harris was at high risk for open valve-replacement surgery because in the past she had received radiation treatment for cancer.
Her Statesboro cardiologist knew about a procedure brought to the Savannah area called transcatheter aortic valve replacement in 2013 and referred Harris to The Valve Clinic at St. Joseph’s/Candler Hospital in Savannah.
The valve replacement procedure was created to replace calcified aortic valves without opening up the heart like in traditional surgeries. The procedure is ideal for patients like Harris who can’t tolerate open surgery and can dramatically reduce recovery time.
“Valve replacement gives patients too sick for surgery an option to reclaim their lives,” said Dr. Soumya Neravetla, who is the medical director of The Valve Clinic at St. Joseph’s/Candler.
Harris turned out to be a perfect candidate for the procedure and on Dec. 22, Dr. Michael Babcock and Dr. Neravetla placed a new valve in her heart.
She went home two days later, just in time for Christmas.
“I feel great. I feel really good,” Harris said during her first follow-up appointment at The Valve Clinic. “I had no pain at all. They gave me a prescription, but I haven’t needed it.”
She calls her move to Statesboro divine intervention.
“If I would have been in Tennessee, it would have been open heart surgery,” she said. “I needed these doctors.”
Harris also turned out to be the 50th patient to receive the valve replacement surgery at St. Joseph’s/Candler.
While the length of stay within the hospital will depend on the specific procedure and overall health, most patients go home within 2-3 days following the procedure.
The Heart Hospital at St. Joseph’s/Candler was the first in the region to employ the technology in 2013. “The first TAVR was performed in the United States in 2002 and it has proved to be an amazing breakthrough in the way we treat patients with valve disease,” said Dr. Michael Babcock. “Imagine enduring a critical condition such as this and having your valve replaced with only two or three days recovery.”