Anna Schu: Cardiac Valve

When Anna Schu learned that calcium had built up in her aortic heart valve, causing her to receive inadequate blood flow through the valve, she thought that she didn’t have many options. Anna is 85 years old, and like many people her age with the condition, was not a great candidate for open-heart surgery to repair her valve. So she decided to just keep living as she had before her diagnosis. She wasn’t experiencing severe  symptoms, she rationalized, and her life had been long and full. For Anna, the rest of her life would be a waiting game.

But then, in late 2014, Anna learned about a clinical trial for the Lotus Cardiac Valve System being conducted by researchers at the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation (MHIF). The system would allow her valve to be replaced in a transcatheter (TAVR) procedure with a shorter recovery time. Most importantly, the procedure would be much less risky than traditional open-heart surgery, which was vitally important for someone of her age and medical history.

After learning about the investigational valve, Anna agreed to the procedure. She would be the first person in Minnesota to receive the Lotus, and just the seventh in the country. But her family urged her to undergo the procedure, and MHIF researchers sealed the deal with one unique fact about the Lotus: “My doctor told me the valve was made in Germany,” Anna said, “so I figured it must be good.”

Of course, the origin of the Lotus wasn’t the most important thing to Anna, but as a native of Hungary who also lived in Germany and Austria for some time, knowing that the valve came from her native land sure helped.

Anna was born in St. Peter, Hungary, where she spent most of her childhood. She relocated to Germany during World War II, and later to Austria, where she worked in a pharmacy for five years and as a nursing aide for six months. She traveled to Minnesota to visit relatives in 1954, and eventually moved to Rochester to study nursing. Instead, though, she met and married her husband, and the couple moved to a farm in Currie, Minn., where they raised seven children and lived together until her husband’s death.

Anna then moved to South Minneapolis, where she has lived for 24 years. She spends her time walking around Lake Harriet with friends, baking her world-famous rum cake, spending time with her children and grandchildren and volunteering at her church. So even though Anna is 85, her life is far from over, which is why the Lotus valve was such a good choice for her.

Paul Sorajja, M.D., a cardiologist at the Minneapolis Heart Institute® at Abbott Northwestern Hospital and a researcher with the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation, explained, “We’re dedicated to providing the very best care possible to all patients — regardless of their interest in participating in clinical research. But quite often, research is our best hope for advancing treatment and offering patients the best chance to receive state-of-the-art therapy. As a national leader in valve research, we have enrolled thousands of patients in clinical studies, and this experience has allowed us to perform high quality, comprehensive and innovative care.”

Through ongoing research such as the Lotus valve study, Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation researchers hope to give even more patients like Anna new and innovative options in order to help them continue enjoying their lives to the fullest for a long time.

Your support helps MHIF provide better options to people like Anna. Consider making a gift today.