When she was experiencing breathing problems last year, Josette Brun never suspected that she’d need cardiac care to solve the problem.
“I kept thinking it was my lungs,” she recalls. “But my doctor told me it was my aortic valve. I was so scared! I remember thinking that they were going to cut open my chest and I was going to have so many scars.”
Brun’s shallow breathing had been a result of aortic stenosis, a condition where the aortic valve narrows, reducing the ability of blood to leave the heart and circulate through the rest of the body. Traditionally, open heart surgery would be the answer to aortic stenosis. But because of Brun’s age, she was a candidate for a newer procedure called TAVR.
TAVR, short for Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement, is a minimally invasive procedure that uses a catheter to place a new aortic valve within the patient’s heart. The catheter is threaded through a small incision in the leg or the side of the chest, and then passed through the blood vessels to deliver a new valve to the heart. TAVR is reserved for patients, like Brun, who are considered to be a high risk for open heart surgery because of age, medical condition, or other circumstances.
“Before TAVR, patients with aortic stenosis who weren’t eligible for open heart surgery only had a few years to live,” says Lisa Igidbashian, MSN, CRNP and Valve Coordinator at Lankenau Medical Center. “Not only does this procedure offer them the chance at a longer life, but a better quality life, too.”
Brun, the 100th patient to undergo TAVR at Lankenau, is the perfect example of a better quality of life. The invasive surgery and scars she was worried about? She’s happy to say they weren’t an issue.
“I was so happy and shocked. They didn’t have to cut me open at all, and I don’t have any scars—nothing. I feel like a new person and like I have a new lease on life,” she says.
And Brun, a Wynnewood resident who calls Lankenau her ‘second home’ is excited to see the progress Lankenau has made in recent years. During her surgery, she stayed in the Heart Pavilion, Lankenau’s newest building devoted completely to heart care.
“I feel like I’m in another world at the Heart Pavilion. It’s very impressive! It’s full of people who so kind and really care; everyone there is so warm and very friendly. I recommend it to everybody,” she says.