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.”


Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461