Left to right, Andrew Calvin, M.D., Dorothy Ganong, Sarah Stokes, Nancee Burbank, Ann Rufledt, and Gloria Krueger participated in a panel discussion at the annual Her Story, Her Heart event to share the importance of heart care.
Dorothy Ganong of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, had struggled with labored breathing for over two years. She would quickly run out of breath halfway up a flight of stairs and practically have to crawl to the top. During an average day, she would often sit in her recliner to catch her breath, but she was a busy woman who wanted to get things done. It was frustrating for her to think her life was slowing down so much, so she decided it was time to make a change.
In July 2016, Ganong was seeing an allergist. When medications and breathing treatments were not helping, she was referred to the Pulmonology Department for possible chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Fortunately, her pulmonologist listened to her concerns and symptoms, and felt it could be her heart that needed extra care and attention.
Valve Evaluation Clinic
The clinic provides complete evaluation and diagnostic testing for complex valvular heart disease. Ganong had a computerized tomography angiography, a medical exam that combines a computerized tomography scan with an injection of a contrast media to produce pictures of blood vessels and tissues, and evaluate blood flow through vessels going to the heart.
She also had an X-ray, electrocardiogram, pulmonary function test, frailty assessment, cardiac catheterization and a carotid ultrasound to determine specific and appropriate intervention, which are integral components of the clinic. The testing revealed that Ganong had severe narrowing of the aortic valve, aortic stenosis, which was severely impeded the flow of blood out of her heart, causing her symptoms.
“Working with patients that have an identified heart valve problem, such as Ganong, is a team effort,” says Dr. O’Cochlain. For the majority of the procedures, the various testing and consults are coordinated between the interventional cardiologists, radiologists, echocardiographers and cardiovascular surgeons.
The clinic requires the expertise of multiple specialties, which is a major patient benefit. “This collaboration is what is novel and exciting about these procedures, and makes our Cardiac Center team unique in the area,” says Ann Rufledt, a physician assistant in Cardiology and Valve Evaluation Clinic coordinator.
Ganong sat down with her son and daughter and shared the test results and the recommendation to have transcatheter aortic valve replacement or TAVR. She says she didn’t want to have the surgery to live longer; rather, she wanted to continue to live an active life without the worry of pain or inability to breath easily. She was especially interested in this procedure because it only requires a small incision instead of a sternotomy, a procedure that requires cutting through the chest bone to access the heart.
On the day of Ganong’s TAVR procedure, an incision was made in her groin where the catheter was inserted and guided up an artery to her heart where the new valve was inserted to replace her underperforming valve.
“Combining all of the skills and expertise of our multidisciplinary team, and working with the patient to align with their needs and lifestyle allows us to select the procedure and leverage the best skills of each participant, resulting in a better quality of life for our patients,” says Dr. O’Cochlain.
Ganong spent four days in the hospital after surgery. Her cardiac rehabilitation team played a significant role in her recovery. They helped keep Ganong motivated through exercises and provided the confidence to get her back to a routine.
She continued to come for her rehabilitation appointments after going home. A couple months later, she began to notice a significant change in being able to breathe easier, go on longer outings and sleep better at night. “It just really changed my life,” says Ganong.
“I am thankful for the whole team that cared for me at Mayo Clinic Health System and for all the other patients that have had this before me and shared their success story, which gave me the encouragement to have it done, too,” says Ganong. If anyone is thinking about having this surgery, Ganong advises, “Just go do it.”
Her Story, Her Heart
View Ganong speak at the 2017 Her Story, Her Heart video to hear important heart-healthy messages from her, another patient and our medical providers: