Replacing damaged heart valves with transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) – a minimally invasive procedure – improves the quality of life for the critically ill people who undergo it, recent research reviews show.

This is no surprise to Prescott Valley resident Nicholas “Red” Demino and his daughter, Lily Bergin, of Skull Valley.

“My heart disease was so severe that I wasn’t a candidate for open heart surgery,” Demino said.

Demino suffers from aortic stenosis – a narrowing of the aortic valve – a condition that tends to develop with age. The condition can lead to chest pain, fatigue, shortness of breath and heart failure. People with severe aortic stenosis at an advanced age, like Demino, are not eligible for traditional valve replacement surgery.

Getting Ready for TAVR
After speaking to Gwen Rhodes, RN, Patient Navigator for the James Family Heart Center at YRMC, and learning more about TAVR, Demino began preparing for TAVR.

Rhodes arranged for Demino – a highly decorated Army and Air Force veteran – to undergo the series of tests required before TAVR. Dedicated to patient education, Rhodes also talked to Demino about how his heart works; provided a step-by-step overview of what happens before, during and after a TAVR procedure; and, most important to patients, discussed the pain and discomfort involved in the procedure (it’s minimal).

Demino underwent TAVR in YRMC’s state-of-the-art Hybrid Operating Suite in April 2017. He was the Heart Center’s 12th TAVR patient, a number that now has grown to more than 70.

“Everything went superbly,” said Bergin of her father’s experience. “They took great care of my Dad.”

From Wheelchair to Weightlifting
Following his TAVR, Demino joined Cardiac Rehabilitation at YRMC’s Pendleton Center West in Prescott. The 90-year-old’s exercise routine was supervised by one of the Center’s therapists. During sessions, he rode a stationary bicycle, worked out on an elliptical trainer, lifted weights from a chair, participated in resistance training and walked along a rail to build balance.

“He went into Cardiac Rehabilitation in a wheelchair,” remembered Bergin. “Each day, we saw improvement. On the last day of Cardiac Rehabilitation, he stopped by to say thank you to Gwen and then walked out the door with his cane.”

Today, Demino exercises on his own at home with a treadmill he purchased after he completed YRMC’s Cardiac Rehabilitation program.

Lucky Number 12
Demino is proud he was among the Heart Center’s first group of patients. In fact, when he calls Rhodes to catch up or with a question, he enjoys teasing her by identifying himself as “number 12.”

And research also shows that laughter improves your quality of life.

For more information about TAVR and the James Family Heart Center at YRMC West, visit www.yrmc.org.