Kay Rodrick's active life was slipping away.

Rodrick_400x300_4035She was struggling to breathe, even to move around in her home.

"I couldn't walk to the kitchen,'' Kay said."I couldn't function even going to the mailbox."

The 78-year-old was having to rely on oxygen every minute of the day. This wasn't the world she had worked so hard for to have.

Kay, who retired just a year ago, had spent 22 years as a dental hygienist and 10 years before that as a physical education teacher at a high school in Kansas City, Kansas. She now had plenty of time to give to her son, two daughters and seven grand kids.

She wanted her health to improve, just as she did 10 years ago when she had to have a valve replaced during open heart surgery. Now, with her breath so labored, Kay's cardiologist wondered if her medical history was repeating itself.

Under the advice from Sellberg, Kay saw a doctor at Abrazo Arrowhead Campus in Glendale. There, she underwent an echocardiogram (an ultrasound of the heart) and tests on her lungs and her heart. 

The diagnosis? Aortic stenosis. 

Because her valve was closing, her heart was having to pump harder to move blood through the body and that's why she was fighting to breathe.

But there was good news. She wouldn't have to endure open heart surgery again. Abrazo Arrowhead had a new alternative.

Kay became a candidate for Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement(TAVR), a minimally invasive, advanced heart procedure for patients suffering from severe aortic stenosis.  During the procedure, the TAVR medical team implants a replacement valve into a patient's heart through a thin flexible tube (catheter) that holds the replacement valve. The team uses special imaging equipment to guide and position the valve into place.

In August, Dr. Michael Caskey, director of Abrazo Arrowhead’s Heart Murmur Clinic, and Dr. Merick Kirshner used an artery in Kay's leg to feed it through her groin to open and repair the valve that had been replaced 10 years before.

With that, Kay became one of the Abrazo Arrowhead Campus's first valve replacement patients to have the TAVR procedure.

Within two weeks, Kay felt she got her life back.

"I was healed,'' she said. "I quit using the oxygen at home. I went from severe breath loss to feeling good. I don't need oxygen when I walk. I can do cardiac rehab without an oxygen tank."

Kay is especially thankful for the special care given by Tammy Querrey, an acute Care Nurse Practitioner and Valve Coordinator. "Tammy was in charge of me leading up to the surgery. She followed me around . . . wheeled me around for all the tests . . .went into the operating room with me.

As the Valve Coordinator, Querrey serves as a TAVR patient’s central contact.

“I navigate them throughout the screening process, educating them about each test they will have and making them feel comfortable throughout the process,’’ she said. She also observes all TAVR procedures to monitor for quality improvement. 

“I also "round" on the patients post TAVR which means I visit them, look over their labs, X-rays, and tests: write daily orders and a progress note and track their outcomes.  I see them again at a 30-day and one-year follow up. “

Most of all, I am an advocate for them,   with the goal of increasing their quality of life,” Querrey said. “I treat all of my patients like they were one of my family members.” 

Kay was pleased to have had such attention, adding, “It's important for heart patients to have a go-to person."

Getting to have the TAVR procedure vs. open heart surgery was "as different as night and day,'' Kay said. Instead of a couple of months recovering, it was just a couple of weeks.

"I felt better almost immediately,'' Kay added.  "I can breathe. I feel totally different. I really am doing great." 

Disclaimer: Dr. Michael Caskey and Dr. Merick Kirshner are independent physicians and are not employees, agents or representatives of Abrazo Community Health Network’s Abrazo Central Campus.  They are solely responsible for the provision of their medical services to their patients. For more health information, go to AbrazoHealth.com.

Kay's Story from Abrazo Community Health Network on Vimeo.