Valve replacement surgery allows 96-year-old Tucson man to fulfill bucket list

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Seymour Einstein with his wife Audrey

At 96 years old, Seymour Einstein has a lot of living to do with his new wife, Audrey. Married for two years, the pair has big plans to crisscross the country. Einstein, a retired structural engineer, graduated from the Naval Academy in 1941 before serving in WWII. He wants to take a trip back to Annapolis, Maryland, visit his hometown of Chicago and spend time with his great grandchildren in New York and Los Angeles.

But a recent visit to the cardiologist temporarily halted those plans. Einstein was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. “My doctor discovered that my aortic valve was a third of the size it should be, which was causing the heart failure,” he said. Einstein was referring to aortic stenosis, a life-threatening disease that narrows the aortic-valve opening and restricts normal blood flow to the entire body. As the heart works harder to pump enough blood through the smaller opening, the heart eventually becomes weak, causing heart failure. Multiple tests determined Einstein was a candidate for transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR.

TAVR is a method of putting in a new aortic valve without having to make any incisions in a patient’s chest. It’s used for high-risk patients who are not candidates for open heart surgery. Einstein opted to have it done.

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Drs. Raj Bose, William Thomas and Thomas Waggoner

During the procedure, Drs. William Thomas and Thomas Waggoner used the latest technology available for valve replacement called the Sapien 3. It’s a valve made of cow tissue attached to a cobalt-chromium frame. When it’s compressed, it’s placed on the end of a tube-like device called a balloon catheter. It’s then inserted through an artery in the patient’s leg – similar to feeding a piece of spaghetti through a straw – until it reaches the diseased aortic valve. The valve is then expanded by the balloon and anchors to the diseased valve. The new valve opens and closes properly guiding the blood to flow in the correct direction – no open heart surgery required.

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Sapien 3 valve for TAVR procedurese

“They put me under and when I woke up, I felt no pain,” said Einstein. “In fact, I had forgotten that they had gone up my groin.” Einstein was discharged from TMC just two days later and is currently receiving cardiac rehabilitation. Not only is he feeling better; he’s able to live life without feeling woozy most of the day. “I take a variety of medications,” he explained. “One of the side effects of all my medications is dizziness. Before the procedure, I would feel dizzy from the time I woke up until about 3 o’clock every day. The strange thing – and the good thing – is that ever since I had my procedure, I don’t get dizzy anymore.”

Einstein is now working hard to build up his strength and endurance. He hopes to eventually get back to hitting the links, attending his weekly lunch club and playing bridge with his friends. And soon enough, he’s confident he’ll be booking those plane tickets.

“If I were to recommend a hospital, I would recommend TMC. The staff is competent. They’re courteous and cheerful. I couldn’t ask for better care. I want to thank them because they really deserve my thanks – everyone from the valet who parked my car all the way up to the CEO.”

Comments

  1. After a heart attack, I was privileged to be treated at Tucson Medical from Sept. 17 through 22nd of this year of Grace 2015. There aren’t words enough to describe the superb care that was given. I’m especially indebted to the superlative cardiologist, Dr. Lou Lancero, who expertly coordinated with Drs. Cary Belen and Alejandro Rivero, the neplusultra nephritis guys, to protect my kidneys from the ink that was shot into my bloodstream….

    I’m also indebted to Nurse Jill Maurset, who kindly asked the suffering patient to describe his chest pain from 1 to 10– 10 being the most painful– which is rather hard to rate by scaling backwards from the imagined death pangs to something which is barely tolerable– then to a dietitian nurse whose fetching first name is Mojave, who charmingly discussed diet with the diabetic in room 426– I think– or maybe 428. There were other nurses and technicians and students who dropped in to inquire, or poke needles into this place or that– taking something, or injecting something else— all of then kind and gracious, competent and warm-hearted and almost holy, floating around like angels at the edges of the poor patient’s frayed consciousness.

    And there is another, an ephemeral pharmacist by the name of Linda, whose name reflects her persona, who came a couple of times to discuss subjects which fascinated the prostrate patient– maybe including the matter of pills– which is a pharmacist’s passion, of course.,.but I don’t remember what she may have suggested to return me to youth and vitality. We talked about nature’s medicines, and the long history of pharmacology, going back to the shaman and curanderas…who maybe knew more about some stuff than we do now. I told her about an old man I once knew in Mexico who was cured of emphysema by the juice of an unfortunate Gila monster who was rendered unliving by the curandero, ground up and sent to the old man in a strange-looking bottle. He had lived his life in an old house built in 1840, the smoke of his roll-your-owns competing with the murky smoke of his wood stove for 84 years, until he was sucking oxygen from a tube, and barely breathing therewith. Two months after daily doses of the monster juice, the old man was breathing with ne’er a hoarseness, clear as a church bell.

    Lovely Pharmacist Linda, tuning in to my story, then returned the next day with sheaves of interesting data which did confirm the matter of curative effects of Gila monster saliva. (Maybe the mincing of the poor reptile was superfluous, but what the heck.) The old fellow, who was still living 10 years after being cured of emphysema, assured me that his potion could reverse diabetes also….in which case I would never have met Pharmacist Linda, who also animated me to listen to NPR Radio– which I daily enjoy now. That’s my story, in praise of a great hospital and its staff. I almost look forward to dying there at Tucson Medical, in the care of angels, in which case the category of discomfort will be a 10+. — SM NONA (not my birth name.) 🙂

    • SM NONA — what a wonderful recollection! We will let the staff know of your experience in our halls and to the effectiveness of Gila monster saliva. And if it comes to your spending your last days here, may it be years down the road with you surrounded by your loved ones. Take care and have a wonderful 2016.

  2. Fredric J. Einstein says:

    My father (Seymour) passed away this morning. I’m of the impression that this surgery did nothing whatsoever to increase his quality of life. What was the point of doing this surgery other than to use my father as an experimental subject?

    • Maybe it was important for Seymour to give it a last try. Can’t blame him for that. Rest in Peace. My father’s words: “It’s rough gettin’ old.” Now I’m beginning to learn too… 🙂

  3. Fredric J. Einstein says:

    Sorry, that should have been “improve his quality of life”…. Details: he spent most of his last months in the hospital or in a nursing home….

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