This page provides a range of information to help patients who may have been diagnosed with Aortic Stenosis or Mitral Regurgitation and are looking to understand their condition more, or find out more about transcatheter heart therapies such as TAVI (Transcatheter Aortic Valve Implantation) and TEER (transcatheter Edge-to-Edge Repair).
Christopher Ambler's Story
From my late teens I have been involved with outdoor activities; beginning with walking and progressing to rock climbing, mountaineering, downhill skiing, ski mountaineering and, in my 50's, fell running. However, in my late 60's I found that I was finding that I had to slow down when climbing hills. In 2005, my GP referred me to Calderdale Royal Hospital where I was diagnosed with significant Aortic Stenosis. I was then referred to Leeds General Infirmary where my aortic valve was replaced by open heart surgery. The replacement valve was a tissue valve, I was told by the surgeon that if he gave me a mechanical valve I would have to be on Warfarin, which carried risk of bleeding and stroke for the rest of my days.
The tissue valve surgery was a great success and enabled me to return to a fully active life, appropriate to my age. By the end of my 80's I was finding that I was again having difficulty on hills, in 2018 was diagnosed with acute heart failure and atrial fibrillation. I was taken off Aspirin and put on Apixaban and a diuretic. I reduced my weight by 20 Kg but was still having problems walking uphill and sometimes having to stop when walking on the level. In 2021, I was referred to Calderdale Royal Hospital and after a whole series of investigations was referred to the Transcatheter Aortic Valve Implant or TAVI team at Leeds General Infirmary as the tissue valve was quite seriously deteriorating. I realised this when I was given a number to ring at LGI should things get worse.
On one of my routine echocardiograms in the past the TAVI word was first mentioned so I had a basic understanding of what was involved with the procedure. In February 2022, I had my appointment with Professor Blackman who explained that a new valve would be implanted inside the old valve via the femoral artery and that I would be admitted as soon as a dental extraction had been done and healed. I was then passed on to Kerry Pena who would be my TAVI specialist nurse. Kerry dealt, in a professional and caring way, with all information and matters leading up to my admission and subsequent follow up.
On 1st March 2022, I was dropped off at 7:30 am at LGI and, after preparatory matters, I awaited my turn. I was asked whether I would participate in a trial of a procedure designed to give cerebral protection from debris from the old valve and I agreed to this. About 3:00 pm I was given a gown and walked into the catheter lab and onto the table. With conscious sedation administered by a nurse, who was by myside the whole time, I was fully aware of everything that was happening and at no time felt discomfort or uneasy. The procedure took just over an hour and was then taken to a cardiac care ward where I had to remain horizontal until about 9:00 pm. After the ward round the following morning I was discharged and was home for lunch!
There was an outline rehabilitation timetable provided and I had a detailed exercise routine from the local health service. Over a few months I was able to walk at a modest pace and able to cope with hills without having to stop for recovery. In 2022 I had planned to climb Ingleborough, one of the Dales Three Peaks, with two friends but wasn't able to arrange this until the 24th May 2023. The weather was perfect and the walk was 12 kilometres (7.5 miles) in length and 522 metres (1712 feet) of ascent. At times in the past I had resigned myself to not seeing a summit cairn under my own steam ever again and am sincerely grateful to all involved in the diagnosis and treatment of my aortic valve problems. I particularly wish to thank all the TAVI team for their care and skill which has restored my ability to continue an active life in my 85th year and to be with my family.