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Richard’s TAVR Story

Richard SutzRichard Sutz was experiencing shortness of breath. Something needed to be done, but at age 85 he was not a good candidate for open-heart surgery.

He needed a new aortic valve, due to a condition called aortic stenosis. What that means is that deposits had built up in his heart’s main exit valve, stiffening it so it could no longer work normally, and narrowing it so blood could not flow through as it should to the rest of his body.

Richard’s doctor referred him to Dr. Timothy Byrne, an Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital interventional cardiologist, who told him about a relatively new and much less invasive way to get a new heart valve. The procedure is called Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement, or TAVR.

Dr. Byrne asked Richard to meet with two TAVR team physicians on the hospital’s TAVR team to confirm that he was a good candidate for the procedure. They agreed he was, and Richard’s procedure was scheduled for September 2016 at Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital in Phoenix.

Richard said the procedure was simple. Dr. Byrne inserted a catheter carrying the new valve through a tiny puncture in his groin, and using special imaging equipment, guided and positioned the valve into place.

“I was up and walking right away and I was only in the hospital for a day and a half. It was incredible. I had zero pain,’’ Richard said.

Richard said he is pleased that TAVR was an option for him because it meant he could return back to his busy life quickly. A mechanical engineer and inventor, he works full time managing two businesses involving low-speed wind turbines he designed and enhanced reading programs that he developed.

About a month after his TAVR procedure, Richard had a follow-up visit with Tammy Querrey, a nurse practitioner who was with him before, during and after his procedure.

Since then, Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital nurse navigator Sarah Wilmowski has called periodically to check on him. Richard will have a one-year checkup later in September.

“It is because of patients like Richard that I love my job so much because he was eager to learn about his procedure, willing to follow post-op instructions and even do cardiac rehab, which empowered him to become a collaborator in his car,” Sarah said.

Richard agrees. “There is no doubt that the TAVR is marvelous,” he said.

Disclaimer: Dr. Timothy Byrne is an independent physician and is not an employee, agent or representative of Abrazo Community Health Network. He is solely responsible for the provision of medical services to his patients.


David’s CardioMEMS Story

Photo of David BarnardA heart attack in 1993 and then again in 2006 left David Barnard with a bit of a precarious future. Triple bypass surgery and an implanted defibrillator helped treat the damage caused by the heart attacks, but there was no denying that his heart would never be the same

Helping doctors monitor his condition meant wearisome trips to the hospital. And then, in a recent setback – his medications just weren’t working as needed.

But Abrazo Community Health Network had a solution to turn the 74-year-old’s life around for the better. And it came in the size of a device as small as a paper clip.

In July, David was given the CardioMEMS Heart Failure System. As part of a procedure, the tiny electronic sensor was implanted in his pulmonary artery to monitor potential problems with his heart. The device allows cardiologists to track the pressure of the patient’s artery and remotely monitor changes in the patient’s heart. Now in place, the sensor will alert David’s doctors to pressure changes which could indicate worsening heart failure.

So, before he shows any outward symptoms of heart failure, his doctors can make adjustments to his treatment plan or medications.

“I’ll wear this for the rest of my life,’’ says David. “I just want to keep going on.”

Every day for 20 seconds, David lies down on a pillow, which has an embedded monitor. The monitor transmits information to his doctor’s smart phone or computer.

An automated alert will be sent to David’s healthcare providers, if his pressure readings fall outside of prespecified ranges. “The intention of this (device) is to keep patients out of the hospital,” says Dr. Marwan Bahu, an independent cardiologist at Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital. “This empowers the physician to make decisions way ahead of symptoms.” David, a retired developer and owner of a mini-storage business, has lived in Arizona for 30 years. With this new lease on life, he’s busy traveling, exercising and playing golf.

He was just 50 years old when head had his first heart attack and says he subsequently was used to being  hospitalized five or six times a year. “With the CardioMEMS, I hope I won’t have to be hospitalized again,’’ he says.

Obtaining the CardioMEMS device requires only an outpatient procedure. With no batteries or connecting wires, it’s designed to be permanently in place, so David should never feel the sensor. The system is also designed not to interfere with his defibrillator.

“My care at Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital was fabulous,’’ David says. “It is the best. From the front door to the nurses to operating room and the administration, it’s all good.”

Disclaimer: Dr. Marwan Bahu is an independent physician and is not an employee, agent or representative of Abrazo Community Health Network. He is solely responsible for the provision of medical services to his patients.