Jesse Aldrich

Jesse Aldrich: Transcatheter Aortic Valve Implantation (TAVI) Provides WWII Vet Another Win

Jesse Aldrich survived three wars, spending time on ships as a marine engineer during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. “We had some close calls,” Aldrich said. “But we always made it home. I am a lucky man.” When Aldrich was 90 years old, he  reached a point of not knowing how much longer that luck would last. His health had been deteriorating quickly. Daily tasks were becoming a chore and he was constantly out of breath when doing the simplest things.

“I would walk out in the backyard to get firewood and I couldn't make it back inside without feeling like I had run a marathon,” Aldrich said. “I had to give up doing the treadmill because I just couldn't do it anymore.”

Aldrich suffered from severe aortic stenosis , a serious heart valve condition from which more than half of those diagnosed die within two years. It occurs when the heart valve narrows and fails to open properly, obstructing blood flow from the heart. Over time, the heart works much harder to pump blood out and this eventually weakens the heart muscle. This can lead to fatigue, shortness of breath and death. The only way to fix the problem is to replace the valve.

Houston Methodist cardiologist Dr. Stephen Little met with Aldrich and enrolled him in a clinical trial investigating the use of transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI), which is a procedure that replaces the diseased aortic valve without open heart surgery. The trial involved more than 13,000 patients in 40 hospitals in the United States. Houston Methodist was pleased to be one of the institutions taking part.

The TAVI procedure compresses the new aortic valve onto a catheter and then guides it from an artery in the leg all the way to the heart. When released within the heart, the new valve simply displaces the diseased valve and the heart is able to pump again without obstruction. Houston Methodist’s dedicated medical team performing TAVI procedures includes interventional cardiologists, cardiac surgeons and imaging experts. Doctors Michael Reardon and Neal Kleiman served as the principal investigators of this amazing technology when it first arrived at Houston Methodist.

“The transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI) is best for very high-risk patients who wouldn't tolerate open surgery because of their age or other medical conditions,” Little said. “If patients come in with good lung and kidney function, most feel better almost immediately after the procedure. Mr. Aldrich did extremely well.”

Aldrich says the TAVI gave him his life back. Soon after the procedure, he started back on the treadmill 15 minutes a day and was nearly back to normal just one month after surgery. He says it took a lot to survive three wars and he credits his Houston Methodist team with helping him win his war against heart disease.