Ninety-year old Jesse Aldrich survived three wars. He spent his 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."
A few months ago, Aldrich did not know how much longer that luck would last. His health was deteriorating quickly. Daily tasks were becoming a chore. He was constantly out of breath when he would do the simplest of 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 where 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.
Cardiologist Dr. Stephen Little met with Aldrich in The Valve Clinic of the Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center, where he serves as director. He enrolled him in a clinical trial investigating the use of Trans-catheter Aortic Valve Implantation (TAVI), a procedure that replaces the diseased aortic valve without open heart surgery. The trial involves more than 13,000 patients in 40 hospitals in the United States. Houston Methodist Hospital is one of the institutions taking part.
For this procedure the new aortic valve is compressed onto a catheter then guided from a leg artery 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. All this is accomplished by a dedicated medical team including interventional cardiologists, cardiac surgeons and imaging experts. Dr. Michael Reardon and Dr. Neal Kleiman are the principal investigators of this amazing new technology at Houston Methodist Hospital.
"The TAVI is best for very high risk patients who wouldn't tolerate open surgery because of extreme 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. He's started back on the treadmill 15 minutes a day and is nearly back to normal one month after surgery. He says it took a lot to survive three wars and he credits the team at the Heart Center with helping him win this latest war over heart disease.
"I am back to mowing my yard and taking care of my home," Aldrich said. "Even at my age, the TAVI has given me the future I could have only dreamed of a few months ago."
Read more patient stories:
- Susan Dickson
- Felicia Galloway
- Henry Ham
- Brian Hodder
- Rose Joubert
- Kurt Salziger
- Gilbert Swagger
- J. Rob Walker
- Ronny Yon
For more information about the Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center, please call 713-DEBAKEY (332-2539) or complete our online contact us form.