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TAVR Heart Procedure Keeps Homesteader Going Strong

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While preparing for surgery, Reita Patterson held onto her glasses because she wanted to see the new, state-of-the-art operating room where her transcatheter aortic valve replacement procedure would take place. She got a good look at the high-tech equipment that would help the surgery team guide and place her new heart valve and found it impressive. She also remembers a simple, comforting gesture.

“While they were getting things ready, the doctor brought me a warm blanket,” Patterson said. “I just felt so much at ease then.”

Even though the surgery happened in July of 2019, Interventional Cardiologist Edward Toggart, MD, remembered Patterson clearly more than a year later, in part because she was the first patient to get transcatheter aortic valve replacement, known as TAVR, at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center in Corvallis.

“Our heart team reviewed the results of Reita’s cardiac testing and recommended TAVR,” said Dr. Toggart. “She was aware we were close to launching our TAVR program at Good Sam. We offered and she accepted the opportunity to be our first patient. In July of 2019, after a three-year process led by our heart team, we were ready to go. We were honored and grateful for the trust Reita placed in our new program.” 

Patterson first learned about TAVR after echocardiograms showed problems with a valve in her heart. Her primary care provider recommended she talk with a cardiologist at Samaritan Heart Center about options including TAVR — a minimally invasive procedure to replace the narrowed valve.

“I did not want to consider open heart surgery,” Patterson said. “I did not want to have to go to Portland or anything. I wanted to be close to home.”

Patterson and her husband, Elton, moved to Philomath in 1956, and in 1966 they bought a parcel of land, cleared away the scrub oak and built the home where they raised their son and daughter and where they still live. She worked as a secretary at Philomath Elementary School for 24 years before retiring in 1994. She and Elton have stayed active, working on their home and their land in Philomath, on a place in Yuma, Arizona, and in recent years on a fishing cabin along the Siletz River near Lincoln City.

“It needed a lot of repairs,” Patterson said of the place on the Siletz. “It’s a repair in progress all the time. You fix something and the wind comes along and unfixes it for you. We both work just as hard being retired as we did working at our jobs.”

At age 85, Patterson jokes that she and her husband are also needing repairs as they get older, but as she started experiencing symptoms of her heart valve condition — aortic stenosis — she just assumed it was because of her age.

“I’d be out in the yard and the house seemed further away than it used to,” she said. “I would get tired walking up stairs and would need to rest. I thought, OK, it’s my age and that’s the way it is.”

After Cardiothoracic Surgeon Edward Bender, MD, explained the TAVR procedure to her, she underwent a few more tests in the weeks before the surgery. She had moments where she was unsure whether she should have the procedure.

“I thought, it’s there, I’ll do it,” she said. “And I am so glad I did. The improvements were excellent. I was up and doing everything like I had done before. I had no big incisions or anything to worry about. No pain.”

In the past, open heart surgery was the only option for patients like Patterson with severe aortic stenosis. TAVR is safer for many older patients when major surgery could be prohibitively risky. The procedure is done using a long, thin, hollow tube called a catheter, usually inserted through a blood vessel in the groin. Using high-tech imaging equipment, the surgeons guide the catheter which carries a replacement valve to the heart’s damaged aortic valve. With TAVR, the patient can be under less anesthetic and the recovery time is much faster — patients are usually up and about the next day, and on their way home within three days.

“A patient who has had the TAVR procedure often starts feeling better immediately, because they now have a working aortic valve,” said Dr. Bender. “They’ll likely be breathing normally and have more energy for everyday activities.”

Dr. Bender, who came to Samaritan Heart Center through an affiliation with Stanford Health Care, was instrumental in bringing TAVR to Corvallis, and previously helped start a TAVR program at a hospital in Missouri.

“TAVR makes heart valve treatment available to more patients,” said Dr. Bender. “Symptoms improve, they feel a lot better and quality of life is improved. For patients who could not undergo open heart surgery, this is certainly a gift.”

Patterson agrees.

“It’s just so unbelievable what they can do,” she said. “I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”

Samaritan Heart Center provides a wide range of advanced cardiology and cardiac surgery services. An affiliation with Stanford Health Care provides seamless access to even more life‑saving cardiac procedures for local patients. For more information, visit samhealth.org/Heart or call 888-263-6092.