Like many people her age, Andrea Rose, 81, chalked up her mild symptoms from heart valve disease simply to her advancing age. When she and her husband Fred took their daily walks with their dog near their home in St. Louis Park, she would need to periodically stop along the way to sit down and catch her breath. She could no longer mow the lawn, which she loves to do, because it was just too tiring. To her, however, the limitations seemed rather normal.
“I never really gave it much thought,” said Andrea. “I was tired, but didn’t know it because it’s something that comes out in you slowly. I had to rest a lot during the day and I just thought it was because I was a little heavier and I was older.”
Now, after having an aortic valve replacement in the summer of 2020 through the Valve Science Center at the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation (MHIF), Andrea feels younger and more energetic than ever.
“I really feel young; my age does not mean anything to me,” said Andrea. “It was like a lifesaver. My kids can’t believe it. And my grandkids, who are grown, have noticed and said, ‘Grandma, you’re just so lively and you can just do everything.’ I lift things and I work out and I play with my great grandchildren. It’s wonderful. I didn’t even realize how I couldn’t do anything before. Now, you can’t keep me down. I shovel, I do. It’s great.”
Andrea’s life-changing journey to getting her new valve began while she was under the ongoing care of a cardiologist after experiencing a mild heart attack several years ago. During one visit her cardiologist told her that her aortic valve opening was small (narrow), and at a follow-up visit a year later, he said imaging tests showed it had gotten even narrower. He referred her to MHIF’s Valve Science Center, where they were doing a heart valve study for which he thought she might be a good candidate.
“I thought, ‘Well, that would be good,’” said Andrea. “It would be something for me and something that I could do for other people. And that really interested me.”
After some initial screening evaluations for the study, however, Andrea was disappointed to learn that she wasn’t eligible to participate. Her aortic valve disease was too advanced. She was starting to have symptoms and actually needed to have her valve replaced immediately. As she learned more about the function of the aortic valve, her lack of energy started to make sense to her.
“Then I knew why I was so tired, because I wasn’t getting enough blood going through to my heart and to my extremities,” said Andrea. “I needed to have my valve replaced right away and I was sort of glad, because once you know that you have to have a surgery of some sort, you’d like to have it as soon as you can.”
Andrea knew she didn’t want to go through open-heart surgery to replace her valve, so she was happy to learn that MHIF researcher Dr. Santiago Garcia and his team could perform a transcatheter aortic valve replacement, which is much less risky than traditional open-heart surgery. After the minimally invasive procedure, patients are able to leave the hospital often within 24 hours.
“My recovery after surgery was very easy. I felt really good, practically right away,” said Andrea. “It was the easiest surgery I ever had, and I’ve had quite a few. It wasn’t even like surgery. I would tell anybody who is even thinking about it, and thinking, ‘Maybe I’ll put it off,’ don’t put it off. Do it because your life will change immediately.”
She continued, “I am so thankful that they gave me back my life. I feel like they gave me back a life I didn’t know I was losing. Now I have it, and I’m so happy.”
Listen to Andrea Share Her Story
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