Real Patients, Real Stories: Emory Provides Less-Invasive Lifesaving Heart Surgery Option for 95 Year Old

Feeling lightheaded at his home in South Carolina, Ed Iler, 95, was rushed by paramedics to the nearest hospital emergency room. He complained of chest pain and was told by his doctor he had a heart murmur.

“I’m 95 years of age and I have never been told that before,” said Iler, an active member of his community who enjoys gardening, hiking and spending time with family and friends.

The following week, he was experiencing more chest discomfort and shortness of breath. He was rushed to the hospital where they discovered a leaky mitral valve. This meant the mitral valve of the heart wasn’t closing properly. The abnormal blood flow signals the heart to pump harder, which causes stress on the body.

Although the examining cardiologist in South Carolina felt he was strong and healthy enough to have surgery, he was concerned that open heart surgery might be too much for a patient his age.

“We have one possible option,” said the doctor, “and that’s to reach out to the Emory Structural Heart & Valve Center in Atlanta to do a MitraClip® procedure—a less invasive alternative.”

Iler’s daughter, Pat Krzak, said, “Let’s do it!” She worked with John Cebe, MD, the cardiologist in South Carolina, who tirelessly worked for days arranging the details with Emory’s Patient-Centered Care team to get the necessary approvals.

“When Mr. Iler arrived at Emory, he was extremely ill due to his mitral valve disease. It was clear that he needed to have his valve fixed in order for him to survive hospitalization,” said Robbie Williams, MD. “We agreed that he was too frail to undergo traditional valve repair surgery and that he was a good candidate for the MitraClip® procedure.”

Iler is very thankful he had the mitral heart valve replacement, a lifesaving procedure that was done without traditional open heart surgery. “Dr. Vasilis Babaliaros and his team with Emory Structural Heart & Valve Center made me feel like the impossible was possible again. They saved my life.”

The surgery went so well, Iler went straight to the cardiac telemetry unit instead of the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). The day after surgery, he was smiling, joking and talking with his nurses. The doctor told Iler if he could walk 100 yards, he would release him from the hospital. The following day, Iler went home and told his clinical team he was eager to return to South Carolina. He wanted to resume his gardening and normal activities as soon as possible.

Until recently, many older patients may not have been able to have surgery due to risk related to age. Now, with minimally invasive techniques, age is less of a barrier and doctors can give people of advanced age an opportunity for a new lease on life, and a better quality of life.

Having the MitraClip® procedure allowed Iler the opportunity to continue his independent and active lifestyle with the support and love of his family and friends. He was able to celebrate his 100th birthday this past year and even invited his Emory care team to attend his birthday party. He is so thankful for the compassionate care he received at Emory Structural Heart & Valve Center.

“Emory’s doctors and their staff have been a true blessing to our family,” agrees Krzak. “Because of ‘Dr. B’ and his medical team, my father is alive today.”

To schedule an appointment with Emory Structural Heart & Valve Center call us at 404-778-7777.

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