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  • Writer's pictureSusan Strong

Not your typical TAVR patient: My story

I’m not the “average” patient who receives transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) to treat their aortic stenosis, a condition in which the flow of oxygenated blood from the heart to the rest of the body is restricted because the aortic valve doesn’t open normally. The majority of people with this heart valve disease are older than 60. However, I was diagnosed with severe aortic stenosis at age 47. Although I might not fit the typical demographic of someone needing a heart valve replacement, I’ve discovered that as patients, our experiences and emotions are more similar than not as we go through the process from diagnosis to treatment and beyond.

My diagnosis came as a complete shock. For several years, my primary care physician noted a murmur each time she listened to my heart with her stethoscope. She never discussed it with me, so I always assumed it was simply a variation of normal. I’ve since learned a murmur is an abnormal “whooshing” sound of blood flowing through the heart, and murmurs can indicate that a valve is too narrow or is leaking.

One day, my doctor listened to my heart and said, “Your murmur is changing, Susan. I want to have it checked by a cardiologist.” I left her office with a referral in hand, and honestly, I didn’t think much more about it. A few weeks later, after an echocardiogram, I followed up for my first visit with a cardiologist.

I had been feeling fine, so I fully anticipated the appointment to be uneventful. I was in for a surprise.

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