Patient Stories

Betty Dudleston

Valve Replacement without Open-Heart Surgery

When 89-year-old Betty Dudleston found out she needed surgery to replace an aortic valve, she followed the advice she always gives to others: “Don’t let fear interfere with your health.” Thanks to a less-invasive procedure known as transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR, she was able to return to her normal routine within days.

I just went right on, like I’d been on vacation.

Betty Dudleston, 89, is enjoying life more—and living a more active lifestyle—than a lot of people half her age. When she found out she needed surgery to replace an aortic valve, she followed the advice she always gives to others: “Don’t let fear interfere with your health.”

In years past, Betty would’ve required open-heart surgery. But thanks to a less-invasive procedure known as transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR, she was able to return to her normal routine within days.

During the procedure, a replacement valve is inserted through a catheter while the heart is still beating. The chest is not opened, and it takes half the time of open heart surgery. For most patients, the recovery time is much shorter and carries fewer risks.

The patient team includes physicians from Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, Springfield Clinic and Memorial Nursing and Surgery, Imaging, Cardiac Rehab, physical and occupational therapists and many more.

Staying active and maintaining a positive attitude helped Betty weather some previous health issues, including a bout with breast cancer and a knee replacement. She brought that same attitude to her preparation for TAVR. The team played a big role in keeping her from feeling anxious, adding that she came to know and trust them during the weeks leading up to the procedure in December 2016.

When the day came, Betty was in good spirits. She recalls telling her care team, “‘I’m not worried. You’re the ones who should be worried—you’re doing the procedure!’”

She spent a few days recovering in the hospital before returning home. Her physicians gave her the OK to return to her usual routine—which includes twice-weekly workout sessions at the YMCA and volunteering at her church. Within 10 days of the procedure, she was back in the pool, keeping up with her water therapy exercises.

“I just went right on, like I’d been on vacation,” she said.

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