For Joe Fields, life doesn’t get much better than when you’re enjoying the great outdoors – like working on his Midlands cattle farm or fishing on Lake Murray.
But a problem with his heart made that nearly impossible.
“With my symptoms, I could hardly do anything except sit down.”
The 72-year-old outdoorsman from Saluda had aortic stenosis. That’s a narrowing of the aortic valve, which is the valve that allows oxygenated blood out of the heart to the rest of the body. Patients with aortic stenosis have a valve that doesn’t open properly.
Joe’s aortic stenosis was so severe that it left him with shortness of breath and chest pain. Simply climbing onto his tractor made him breathless. Betty, his wife of 53 years, says he even had trouble walking to the mailbox.
And it was worse at night.
“Lying in bed, I’d have to concentrate on breathing hard to get enough air through to keep me going,” he said.
Aortic stenosis can be a serious problem. As the heart works harder to pump enough blood through the smaller opening in the valve, the heart eventually becomes weak. Over time, that can lead to life-threatening heart problems. In fact, the life expectancy for people with severe, symptomatic aortic stenosis is less than two years.
At Lexington Medical Center in West Columbia, Joe learned about transcatheter aortic valve replacement, known as TAVR. This state-of-the-art cardiovascular technology allows doctors to replace the aortic valve with a catheter instead of performing open heart surgery. Lexington Medical Center began performing TAVR last spring.
Currently, TAVR is only for patients with severe aortic stenosis who are high-risk candidates for open heart surgery because of their age, history of heart disease or other health issues.
Joe, who underwent coronary artery bypass surgery twenty years ago and had stents placed in blocked arteries awhile back, met with a multi-disciplinary team of physicians at Lexington Medical Center who perform TAVR, including cardiologists and cardiovascular surgeons at Lexington Cardiology and Lexington Cardiovascular Surgery. He underwent TAVR at the hospital in October 2014.
Joe spent three days at Lexington Medical Center for the procedure. Immediately after TAVR was complete, he noticed that he could breathe better.
“The next morning when they came in to check my breathing, they said, ‘Man, you’re moving some air today!”
Betty, who says she’s incredibly thankful that Lexington Medical Center now offers a comprehensive cardiovascular program, has noticed a difference in Joe, too. Before TAVR, she said her husband had trouble working on the farm at all. In fact, he had to hand off much of the work with the cattle to his son. Now, Joe is in the pasture from early morning until late afternoon with no chest pain, shortness of breath or fatigue.
“It’s a whole different life for me,” Joe said. “I can get out and do things again. TAVR is one of the best things I’ve ever done.”