Last summer Jerry Grubbs of Shannon became the 300th patient at North Mississippi Medical Center to undergo transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) for aortic stenosis, a narrowing of the aortic valve opening that limits blood flow from the heart out to the rest of the body. In 2012 NMMC became the first hospital in Mississippi and west Tennessee and the seventh non-research hospital in the nation to perform this procedure for patients who are poor candidates for open heart aortic valve replacement surgery. TAVR does not require a chest incision nor stopping the heart and placing the patient on a heart-lung machine. Instead, a new heart valve mounted on a stent can be inserted through the leg blood vessel and placed within the diseased aortic valve and then expanded into place, creating immediate relief.
Cardiologist Barry Bertolet, M.D., has been treating Jerry, who turns 78 this month, for a heart murmur and atrial fibrillation for many years. Over the years, he required heart artery stents to improve heart blood flow three different times. In April 2019, Jerry developed shortness of breath and chest discomfort – all caused by an abnormally narrowed aortic valve. Dr. Bertolet then referred Jerry to cardiothoracic surgeon David Talton, M.D., who recommended the TAVR procedure.
“I stayed tired a lot,” says Jerry, who retired in 2002 from the Mississippi Highway Patrol with 36 years of service as a dispatcher and driver’s license examiner. “I would feel like my heart was fluttering, and a lot of times it felt like it was skipping beats.”
His health issues were beginning to affect his gym workouts. “I had gotten to the place where I would feel like I was going to pass out, and I’d have to stop for a little while before I could start back,” he says. Since having the TAVR procedure in July 2019, Jerry says he can definitely tell a difference. “I’ve done exceptionally well,” he adds.