My dad’s health issues can be summarized in the one sentence he has said to me more than once.
“You know, Geoffrey, I’m old.”
That he is. My father will be 90 in October. He has a long list of health concerns. His most pressing problem is a blocked and leaking heart valve.
Until recently he’d be out-of-luck. Heart surgery is more than he can take. There’s a new procedure to insert the valve through a catheter, then open it once its in place.
The New York Times had a major story on this in June.
With the procedure, a new valve is folded up and slipped into a catheter — a thin, flexible tube — which is then put into a blood vessel in the groin. When the catheter reaches the base of the aorta — the large blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body — the doctor opens a balloon that inflates the valve. The old valve remains, pushed aside by the new. Patients are awake and only lightly anesthetized.
“You are putting a valve right above the heart,” said Dr. Lawrence H. Cohn, a Harvard heart surgeon. “If you are not careful, you could obstruct one of the coronary arteries, causing a big heart attack. This is not child’s play. It is not for the fainthearted.”
Tests that were going to span a month have been accelerated. Yesterday’s incident has squeezed the timeline.
My sister is in charge. She was at the hospital yesterday and today. You would want Trudi to be your medical advocate. She’s tough when she needs to be.
If the surgery is successful, as we hope, the change for my dad should be instantaneous. As soon as his blood flow improves his strength and stamina will follow suit. It will be as if a switch had been thrown!
Ninety is still ninety. My dad has one eye, trouble hearing and shakes like a leaf fluttering in the fall breeze.
But he is mentally sharp. He enjoys life. He’s not done yet.