Inspire 2022 FALL

Straub: Technology at the Heart of Change

Straub Medical Center's TAVR Suite Straub Medical Center's TAVR Suite
Without continued contributions, I and many others would not be alive today. I cannot thank everyone enough.
Becky Getschmann-Padua, Straub TAVR patient

It had already happened once. Becky Getschmann-Padua’s heart stopped. Medical staff fortunately were able to revive her. Days later, Becky was stable enough to be discharged, but she knew her multiple health problems made her next steps in treatment challenging.

“I remember sitting there, crying and thinking that this is it. I won’t be there to care for my 11-year-old granddaughter who has no one else,” Becky said.

Becky began experiencing heart problems when she was 59 years old. She was diagnosed with aortic valve stenosis – when the opening to the aortic valve narrows and restricts blood flow to the heart. It is both common and serious. Surgeons inserted a bioprosthetic valve, a valve from cow tissues, to prolong her life, but the operation was followed by years of health challenges.

Now, following her third hospital admission in just a few years, Becky was concerned she was running out of options. A decade ago, that may have been true.  But now, Straub Medical Center’s state-of-the-art hybrid suite makes it possible for medical teams to do minimally invasive procedures, including transcatheter aortic valve replacement, known as TAVR.

Traditionally, valve replacements required open heart surgery, meaning some older patients would not qualify as good candidates. TAVR allows doctors to insert a manmade valve through smaller incisions. The natural flow of blood moves it into place where it can regulate blood flow. Straub physicians performed their first TAVR procedure in the Clarence T.C. Ching Heart Center in 2018. In the beginning, the collaborative cardiovascular team completed two a week. Soon, they were able to perform five to six weekly in the center’s newly renovated cardiovascular catheterization labs. In 2021, Straub’s Heart Center teams completed their 500th TAVR procedure.

Becky was one of those patients. Cardiologist Dr. Jared Oyama evaluated her case and within a week, she was at Straub for her procedure.

“I woke up and was alive,” she said. “I could not believe it. They sent me to a hospital room for 24 hours and I was discharged the next day.”

“I felt so comfortable. The doctors, nurses and staff were all so comforting and positive even as we knew the procedure may be difficult and the outcome was uncertain.”

Now, Becky is doing well. She spends time with her dogs, enjoys time with her husband and celebrates milestones with her family like her granddaughter’s 13th birthday this year. In her front yard grows a reminder of her journey; a tree her husband sculpted into a heart surrounded by red ti leaves that Becky dedicates to Dr. Oyama and the cardiac team for all the hearts they have saved. And she has a message for donors who make it all possible.

“Without continued contributions, I and many others would not be alive today,” she said. “I cannot thank you enough.”

A Closer Look: Straub’s Heart Center

When the hybrid suite opened four years ago, Dr. Mark Grattan, the medical director of Cardiac Surgery at the time, called it a “game-changer.” Today, the suite that allows cardiac teams to move seamlessly from surgical to vascular and cardiac catheterization procedures in a single space continues to allow Straub’s experienced staff to treat complicated cases as efficiently as possible.

Here are some of the procedures possible because of the hybrid suite:

  • TAVR/structural heart procedures.
  • Repairing aneurysms in the abdominal aorta, thoracic aorta and iliac artery as well as stent grafts and hybrid coronary revascularization, which is a minimally invasive treatment for coronary artery disease.