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For Karl, 97, one of life's greatest pleasures comes from weekly outings with his wife of 71 years – round-trip walks of one kilometre to the grocery store to stock up on household necessities.
But before his Transcatheter Aortic Valve Implantation (TAVI) at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre (PMCC), these trips had become too much for Karl to bear.
"I couldn't walk to Metro," he recalls. "I had to stop halfway. I was really out of breath."
During a TAVI, specialists implant an aortic valve using a catheter. The catheter is inserted into a large blood vessel in the groin or chest and guides a new valve over the patient's existing valve. This new valve begins working right away.
As an interventional procedure – no open-heart surgery is involved.
"We're one of the only hospitals which has replaced all four valves interventionally," says Dr. Eric Horlick, cardiologist at the PMCC, who treats Karl.
According to Dr. Horlick, the TAVI procedure offers an alternative to open-heart surgery for extremely ill heart patients.
"It's a way to take a patient who has a low quality of life due to their heart condition and turn it around for them in no time at all," Dr. Horlick explains. "The recovery time is much faster,"
A year before his TAVI, Karl, who asked that his last name not be used for this story, had a pacemaker implanted at the PMCC. Then, one night, he fainted in his kitchen.
"My artery valve was almost plugged," he says. He was sent to the PMCC, where he asked Dr. Horlick for a "permanent fix."
After quadruple bypass surgery in 2001 and a pacemaker insertion some 10 years later, Karl says he needed another option that would last. Fortunately, one was available.
A TAVI is the one of best lasting "quick-fixes" for patients of all ages, explains Dr. Horlick, who works in a large multi-disciplinary team at the PMCC, comprising cardiac and vascular surgeons, anesthetists, perfusionists and imaging expertise, among other medical professionals.
Just one day after his TAVI procedure, Karl was discharged from the hospital.
"I could breathe a lot better," he recalls.
Back on track
Now, Karl says he and his wife are back enjoying their weekly ritual, walking to and from their local Metro supermarket to shop for ingredients to make her "gourmet meals."
"My wife is a gourmet cook. I'm spoiled with food," Karl says with a laugh. "The care at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre was excellent – but I did miss my wife's cooking while I was there."