My father was dying. The most important valve in his body – his aortic valve which allowed oxygenated blood to be pumped to his brain and other organs – was severely damaged and was barely opening enough to allow him to stay awake perhaps 5 hours a day. A baseball lover, he couldn’t stay awake long enough to watch a game. He couldn’t concentrate or walk and after surviving a terrible winter complete with a bout of bacteremia (a blood infection), severe heart failure, two falls and a heart attack, he was referred to the Ottawa Heart Institute where we met a cardiologist named Dr Labinaz.
Ironically enough, my father, who loves the film “The Godfather”, was given an offer he couldn’t refuse. Either he would die in a few months from the damaged valve which would continue to close or, he could get a new pig valve inserted into his heart via a relatively new procedure called a TAVI (transcatheter aortic valve insertion). Only a decade ago, the only way patients could get a new aortic valve was with open heart surgery, the problem: there was no way my father could survive that extensive a procedure; he was just too sick. The TAVI meant that he would have the valve inserted via the artery in his leg and it would be pushed up to exactly the right spot where it would open, pushing the old valve out of the way, allowing the precious oxygenated blood to flow properly and perhaps save his life. Of course, he accepted the offer.
In a procedure that can be compared to changing spark plugs on engine without opening the hood of the car, the TAVI worked. The Ottawa Heart Institute and Dr. Labinaz were incredible. During the procedure, my dad’s artery – the tube through which the valve was inserted – ruptured. He lost a lot of blood very quickly and needed what can be described as “an oil change”. There was no stroke, no paralysis and he was only in the ICU for 36 hours. It was unbelievable.
Yesterday, we watched the entire Toronto Blue Jays baseball game together. We cheered for Bautista and Encarnacion, the Jays lost, but it didn’t matter. Thanks to the Ottawa Heart Institute, Dr. Labinaz and the amazing nurses that took such great care of him, my dad is back! (yes, dear folks, that’s me. sf)
Nathan Friedland RN