Aortic Valve Replacement Provides an Easy Ride Back on the Farm: Gilbert’s Story

When farmer Gilbert Swagger of Lufkin, Texas found his stamina had waned, making work on long projects more difficult, his daughters Sondra Simons and Linda Bergstom decided to call the multispecialty group of physicians at the Houston Methodist Valve Clinic, part of the DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center. “Dad never lets anything hold him down, but he was definitely fading the last few months,” said Simons.

Swagger was seen by cardiologist Dr. Stephen Little, cardiovascular surgeon Dr. Michael Reardon and interventional cardiologist Dr. Neal Kleiman.

Swagger’s doctors diagnosed the problem as aortic valve stenosis. His heart valve had become thick and calcified and no longer opened normally. After weighing the advice from his doctors, Swagger opted to receive an artificial valve to replace the weak one. This new valve was implanted using a catheter placed within an artery of his leg. Open-heart surgery was not required.

“Immediately, you could see an improvement,” said Bergstrom. “As soon as he woke up, he was sitting up, eating and talking. Given what things were like before the surgery, we just didn't expect that.”

Swagger was sent home three days after the valve was implanted and, soon after that, he began testing his fortitude. “Driving a tractor around his farm was usually very painful for him,” Bergstrom said. “The bumping up and down was just too rough. After he got home, he got on his tractor and turned it up to full speed and said he felt no more pain.”

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