Bob Smejkal managed to avoid a major health scare for 87 years. When he started having trouble completing his "honey-do" list …
"I'm out there pulling that thing and it just hurt like heck. I thought, 'Well, I strained myself, so I put the rake away. Spring came, I get out and I'm cutting grass, but I got tired, so I just quit."
He figured he was just slowing down a little … a check-up revealed Bob had a problem with his heart.
"It was blockage – the valve in the heart wasn't getting any blood," he said.
A procedure recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would be Bob's only option.
"Dr. Satpathy came in and explained everything just so perfect that I had so much confidence in her that I had no fear at all," he said. "I just went through with it."
"There are about 5 million adults with valve problems in the United States," said Dr. Satpathy. "Believe it or not, 33 percent – or 1 in 3 – do not qualify for surgery because they are high-risk surgical candidates. Either they are too old or have had surgery before – open-heart either for valve or bypass surgery or bad kidneys or lungs."
With TAVR, the old valve is stretched open to make room for a ring made from the heart of a pig.
"Then you take this new valve, get it inside the other valve and the new valve takes over," she said.
Surgery takes a couple of hours. Patients are up and moving shortly after, and home within 3 to 4 days.
Bob says the surgery was a piece of cake.
"I had no pain apart from a little soreness where they cut me in my groin," he said.
Bob is slowly getting his strength back and that's good news for a man who, at 87, still has a lot of living to do.