A lifelong Tralee resident and patient at the Bon Secours Hospital Tralee can now leave her house unaccompanied for the first time in 12 months after becoming one of the first two patients at the hospital to undergo a keyhole replacement of her Aortic Valve.
Aortic Valve narrowing (stenosis) is a very common problem and usually (but not exclusively) affects the elderly population. The Aortic Valve which allows blood to flow from the left ventricle of the heart to the Aorta to supply blood to the rest of the body can narrow with time.
Tralee-native, Ms Jenny Hill, a patient of Consultant Cardiologist Dr Samer Arnous, said: “I could only walk from the chair to the bed or to the bathroom but now I can get up in the morning and do things that I couldn’t do for many years. I hadn’t been out of my house on my own for 12 months. I was very nervous, but when I arrived in for the operation, I was very well looked after by Dr Arnous and his back-up team. I had great faith in him and I call him my Guardian Angel. He explained everything to me and assured me that I would only have a small wound (in the groin).”
Transcatheter Aortic Valve Implantation (TAVI) was previously only available at hospitals in Dublin, and more recently in Galway, but now patients being treated at the Bon Secours Hospital Tralee are the first in Munster to be presented with an opportunity to avail of the surgery.
Dr Samer Arnous, who operated on Jenny Hill at Dublin’s Blackrock Clinic, said: “Patients with Aortic Valve narrowing experience symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pains or heart failure, and patients often have a very poor quality of life. Until recently the only treatment option was valve replacement through open heart surgery. A significant proportion of patients however cannot have surgery due to advanced age and co-existing medical conditions that makes them high risk for surgery.”
The Cardiology Department at the Bon Secours Hospital, led by Dr Samer Arnous and Dr Louis Keary is the first in the Cork-Kerry-Limerick region to perform this operation and only one of three centres in Ireland that can offer the operation as an option to patients.
For the time-being, the patients of Dr Arnous at the Bon Secours Hospital Tralee will need to travel to Dublin where he will carry out the keyhole procedure which may take from two to four hours.
Dr Arnous said that patients have to be taken to Dublin (Blackrock Clinic) for this procedure as Cardiac surgical backup is required and the average length of hospital stay in Dublin is five days.
“This, when successful, can have a great impact on quality and longevity of life in patients that otherwise would have had no other treatment options,” he said.
Jenny Hill, who is being discharged from the Bon Secours Hospital Tralee today, said: “Thank God I’m back on my feet and able to walk again. It’s unbelievable. My breathing is great, I can stand at the sink and wash my teeth whereas before I had to sit down to do that. It was a nightmare, but thank God it’s all behind me. I’m now looking forward to getting out and about, doing my own shopping and meeting my friends like I always did. My family have been most supportive and it’s been marvellous for me and helped me get better.
Jenny said she would encourage other patients who have been suffering like her to consider undergoing the procedure and to ask their doctor for more information about what’s involved.
Medical cover for patients who may need to undergo a TAVI should check with their Health Insurance companies as conditions of cover for the operation procedure may vary.
Dr Samer Arnous said that the more people who undergo the TAVI will lead to greater awareness of the availability of the procedure and ultimately, it could lead to public funding being made available to patients who are suffering but who do not have health insurance.