Gilbert Swagger has always been good with his hands — able to fix virtually anything, including complex machines. So it must have been frustrating when Swagger, who lives in Lufkin, Texas, found his stamina had waned, making work on long projects more difficult. "Dad never lets anything hold him down, but he was definitely fading the last few months," said daughter Sondra Simons.
Simons and her sister, Linda Bergstrom, decided to make a single call to a multispecialty group of physicians at the Valve Clinic of the Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center. Swagger was seen by cardiologist Dr. Stephen Little, cardiovascular surgeon Dr. Michael Reardon and interventional cardiologist Dr. Neal Kleiman.
The problem? Aortic valve stenosis – meaning Swagger's heart valve had become thick and calcified and no longer opened normally. With advice from his doctors, Swagger opted to receive an artificial valve to replace the weak one. This new valve was implanted using a catheter placed within an artery of his leg. Open heart surgery was not required.
"Immediately you could see an improvement," said Bergstrom. "As soon as he woke up, he was sitting up, eating and talking. Given what things were like before the surgery, we just didn't expect that."
Swagger was sent home three days after the valve's implantation – and soon after that he began testing his fortitude. "Driving a tractor around his farm was usually very painful for him," Bergstrom said. "The bumping up and down was just too rough. After he got home, he got on his tractor and turned it up to full speed — and said he felt no more pain."
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For more information about the Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center, please call 713-DEBAKEY (332-2539) or complete our online contact us form.