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Genoa woman shares story about aortic stenosis awareness

June 29, 2018 GMT

GENOA – Beverly Gorham, 79, of Genoa has worked hard to get healthy and has lost more than 100 pounds in 2013, but she started to notice in the past year that her chest would get a little tight when she’d work out.

Then she started to get more winded walking around her neighborhood – she’d walk three miles a day – and would have to catch her breath at the corner of her block.

Gorham said she could sense something was up. She said everything came to a head when she planned a 60th anniversary trip, a gift her children gave her, to Mexico City with her husband.

“And yet, in the back of my mind, I was thinking, ‘Do I have the energy?’ ” Gorham said.

Gorham said she decided to talk to her doctor about her concerns a month before she was supposed to leave. She said her doctor at Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital told her she wouldn’t be able to handle the elevation at the trip destination, and that something needed to be done.

After several tests, Gorham said, her doctors determined that she had aortic stenosis, where her aoritc valve had thickened and restricted blood flow to the heart. She said doctors told her that open-heart surgery would be too risky at her age, but told her about another option called a transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR, procedure, which she qualified for after further evaluation from health professionals.

In a TAVR procedure, interventional cardiologists and cardiac surgeons thread a new valve to the heart via a catheter, or tube, inserted in the patient’s groin. The new valve is securely placed within the diseased valve. Once the new valve is expanded, it pushes the old valve leaflets out of the way and the replacement valve takes over the job of regulating blood flow.

Transcatheter techniques like those used in TAVR are performed while the patient’s heart is still beating, eliminating the need for a “bypass” machine and its associated risks during open heart surgery.

Gorham said she’s doing well after her successful, less-invasive procedure in March, and her husband even has a hard time catching up with her now. She said she urges people who might be experiencing the same symptoms that she did to not be afraid to get that checked out.

“It’s not just your age, and it can be fixed,” Gorham said.