Patients who have benefited from TAVR

Georgianna Kirbach, 81
Springfield, IL

Georgianna Kirbach | TAVR Patient TestimonialGeorgianna, a business owner and hands-on grandmother, is constantly on the go. Georgianna has always struggled with COPD but over the last few years Georgianna’s breathing problems escalated to the point where she was unable to carry on with her daily activities. She became winded when making her bed, sweeping the floor or when going for short walks.

During a consultation with her cardiologist, Dr. Trask, Georgianna found out that she needed an aortic valve replacement. Because open-heart surgery was not an option due to her age and health, Dr. Trask recommended TAVR, a minimally invasive procedure for aortic valve replacements.

Georgiana had always attributed her breathing challenges to COPD – until she felt 100% better after the TAVR procedure. Five days after the procedure Georgianna was up and moving. She is now taking less medication, is able to carry out her daily activities, take care of her grandson and is back to working out at least three times a week.

The TAVR procedure has allowed Georgiana the opportunity to continue her independent and active lifestyle with the support and love of her family and friends.

Bernadine Weidler, 85
Mt. Olive, IL

Bernadine Weidler | TAVR Patient TestimonialBefore TAVR, Bernadine was short of breath every time she walked. Even doing simple tasks would require her to take breaks to sit down. It got to the point where she stopped her daily activities, such as shopping. After sitting down with Dr. Gregory Mishkel and her two daughters, Bernadine decided to move forward with the TAVR procedure.

Bernadine was hesitant at first but her grandson came home from college the weekend before her procedure and told her, “Grandma, you paid for me to go to college, I need you to be there when I walk across that stage."

Bernadine was out of the hospital in four days. And within weeks she was able to go back to her normal activities. She drives herself, cooks, cleans, gardens, shops and travels. (Because of her heart problems she has had to keep traveling to a minimum over the last 5-6 years). She was even able to watch her grandson graduate from Bradley University. The graduation ceremony was difficult for her- she had to sit still for three hours! Bernadine said she never sits still.

Bernadine had her first heart surgery at St. John’s Hospital in 1985. Over the years, she has been through a lot physically and emotionally with the loss of her husband, her oldest son and her youngest son. She has not let that slow her down.

In fact, she was a professional softball player for the Chicago Bluebirds. With a rocket of an arm and quick reactions she made for a great third basemen. After her procedure one of the nurses asked if she could still catch a softball. She responded ‘Of course I can.’ They then tossed a big yellow softball to her, that she caught, and had everyone on the heart team sign. She said she thought the world of the team that performed the procedure and everyone she encountered along the way. She said if anyone needs the procedure they should not be afraid. They should go for it. They are obviously things involved with it but so does everything else in life.

Clarence Jahnssen, 87
Marion, IL

Clarence Jahnssen | TAVR Patient TestimonialClarence has always been a hands-on kind of guy. A lifelong builder, he’s spent his entire life working with his hands – he’s even been honored by the President for more than 10,000 hours of service to Habitat for Humanity.

So, when his doctor told him that he’d eventually need an aortic valve replacement, he put his hands to work, just like he’s always done, and started researching his options. He learned that TAVR was being performed in Europe with encouraging results. But Clarence was still active and strong enough for open-heart surgery, so TAVR wasn’t really the best option for him.

Then his life changed. He came down with pneumonia and his health took a sudden turn for the worse. It was a catch-22 – the pneumonia aggravated his heart condition, but left him too physically weak for open-heart surgery.

Then he remembered reading about TAVR. When Prairie Heart Institute became one of the first providers in the United States to offer the procedure, Clarence didn’t waste a moment. He was screened on a Thursday and received the procedure the following Monday.

“I knew I wanted to have the procedure at St. John’s Hospital because the Prairie Heart Institute is the best,” said Clarence.

It turned out to be the best decision he’s ever made. Clarence is feeling better than he’s felt in more than a year. He’s walking, is more alert and more responsive than he’s been in a long time. Doctors estimate it’s added twelve more years to his life. And with six grandchildren and “too many great-grandkids to count,” Clarence has plenty to live for.

John Zimmerman, 84
Niantic, IL

John received a pacemaker six years ago and recently discovered that he needed an aortic valve replacement. His doctor felt like he was a good candidate for the TAVR procedure and after a lot of tests and screenings, he was one of the first three patients to undergo the TAVR procedure at St. John’s in January 2012.

After the TAVR procedure, John says he can breathe again and is able to sleep better at night. He has even lost over 40 pounds. He would recommend the procedure to anyone interested and has recommended it already to his friends who have called to see how he was feeling afterwards. He said the doctors told him TAVR extended his life about another 12 years. He also said he has “some mighty good nurses and doctors.”

John retired in January of 1990 after working at Illinois Bell and being a volunteer firefighter for 40 years. Even though he has been retired from his career for the last two decades, he still hasn’t quit the “side job” he’s had since he was six years old: gardening. John remembers going with his dad as a kid and buying bushels of onions. He and his brother planted and harvested them. His father sold them and shared the profit. Today, John has a ¼-acre vegetable garden for his own enjoyment and it is still a family tradition. He still plows the garden with his tractor, his son plants the seeds and his great grandson picks the beans (but refuses to eat them, or any other vegetable, according to John!)