TAVR Patient Stories

TAVR’s History of Success

The University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center TAVR team has performed more than 1,000 aortic valve implants (the most in Michigan) and is among the top programs in the country in terms of our heart valve experience. U-M was the first hospital in the state of Michigan to offer both the Edwards Heart Valve and the Medtronic Core Valve® for patients who have limited surgical alternatives. Both of these options are known as TAVI or TAVR treatments, which stand for Transcatheter Aortic Valve Implantation and Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement.

Here are the stories of six U-M TAVR patients.

Genevieve Boguszewski

U-M TAVR patient Genevieve Boguszewski

Slowing down with age was something Genevieve Boguszewski simply couldn’t accept. By age 87, a body changes but Genevieve suddenly couldn’t manage her own gardening or vacuum a rug. She was taken by ambulance to a community hospital where she was admitted for pneumonia. But it wasn’t long before doctors diagnosed her with a heart condition called aortic stenosis, a narrowing of the heart valve.

Following care at the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center to replace a diseased aortic valve, she’s not just getting older, she’s getting better. Elderly patients like Genevieve often cannot tolerate open heart surgery, but with the TAVR procedure, valve replacement was possible.

“I could tell from the look on his face how far I’d come,” Genevieve says of her 30-day follow-up visit with University of Michigan interventional cardiologist Stanley Chetcuti, M.D. “He said I didn’t look like the same person. I definitely don’t feel like the same person. I told him, ‘It’s because of you that I feel good again.’

“Before the surgery, I told my doctor I knew people older who could run circles around me. Not anymore,” says Genevieve, who spent 17 years as a pharmacy technician at Motor City Prescriptions in Lincoln Park and faithfully listens to the Detroit Tigers team. “I can shop without getting out of breath, and I’m getting outside to do the things I want to do.”

Ray Tollefson

U-M TAVR patient Ray Tollefson

Ray Tollefson is no stranger to battling for his life. The 89-year-old World War II veteran trained as an Army Ranger, and was wounded in the June 1944 invasion of Normandy while attempting to storm Omaha Beach.

Since 1984 — the 40th anniversary of D-Day — Ray has attended commemorative events in France every five years. However, in the fall of 2012, he was diagnosed with aortic valve stenosis by his doctors in the Petoskey area. He began to worry that he might not make the 70th anniversary event, possibly one of the last major commemorative events attended by soldiers who survived Normandy.

Thanks to the team at the U-M Frankel Cardiovascular Center and a TAVR (transcatheter aortic valve replacement) procedure, Ray was able to travel to France for the 70th D-Day anniversary in June of 2014. And better still, he is back to living the active life he enjoyed before his diagnosis.

"When patients are referred to us, we initiate a specific process to diagnose the condition, understand treatment options and make risk-benefit assessments for every disease, for every treatment option," says Stanley J. Chetcuti, M.D., one of Ray’s physicians.

In Ray’s case, his plan of treatment turned out to be more complex than anyone anticipated. "We found that Mr. Tollefson was anemic and getting worse, which eventually led to a diagnosis of colon cancer and a subsequent resection," says Mary Jo Boyle, DNP, ACNP-BC, nurse practitioner for the TAVR program. "Additionally, he had a blockage in the left anterior descending artery, which required insertion of a drug-eluting stent. Finally, he was able to successfully undergo the TAVR procedure."

Ray came through the procedure without complications. "I had complete confidence in Dr. Chetcuti and the entire team," he says. "I have had more bad side effects from a visit to the dentist's office than I did from the TAVR surgery, so it was a fabulous thing. It was truly unbelievable."

Joe Solak

U-M TAVR patient Joe Solak

Joe Solak celebrated his 95th Christmas last year, thanks to the Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) he received at the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center for his aortic stenosis.

Joe’s age and heart history put him at high risk for open heart surgery. According to Joe’s daughter, Donna Ruemenapp, her dad just wanted to feel better. “He was tired, short of breath and couldn’t sleep due to congestive heart failure.” And while his former doctor recommended treating his symptoms rather than pursuing other options, Joe and Donna weren’t about to give up. Convinced there had to be some type of treatment for her dad, Donna arranged for him to visit U-M, where he was assessed by the TAVR team.

When Dr. Michael Grossman asked what activities Joe was doing prior to arriving at U-M, Joe told him that he swam, went to church and meetings and socialized. “I think we can help you,” Dr. Grossman responded.

The decision was cemented when Dr. Stanley Chetcuti performed a heart catheterization, which confirmed Joe was a candidate for TAVR. Joe’s TAVR procedure was performed on July 2, 2014, and was followed by rehabilitation for three hours a day, something he easily accomplished to everyone’s surprise.

Joe and his family are grateful to the physicians, nursing staff and Cardiac Rehabilitation Program staff at U-M, as well as to the U-M Home Care Services team, which got him back on his feet once he was home.

“We’re so thankful to the U-M team,” says Donna. “They looked at my dad as a viable human being who still had something to offer the world. It’s a miracle and a gift.”

Bernard and Dorothea Bach

U-M TAVR patients Dorothea and Bernard Bach

Bernard and Dorothea Bach have experienced a great deal in their 64 years of marriage, including the births of four children and 12 grandchildren, as well as countless memories that have made their life together special.

What makes them especially unique is the fact that they’ve also shared the experience of having a Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) procedure, which has helped them both get back to better health.

In 2012, Bernard felt he was slowing down a bit. At age 89, he wasn’t able to do his regular workout routine and was experiencing shortness of breath. With a history of heart issues, including a new artificial heart valve in 2000 to replace a leaking valve, Bernard’s latest symptoms led to an emergency room visit where an echocardiogram revealed aortic valve regurgitation.

His age and condition made Bernard a candidate for TAVR, a procedure for those who cannot tolerate open heart surgery. The procedure, performed by the U-M TAVR team, was a success. The next day Bernard was sitting up enjoying breakfast, ready to go home. “My TAVR surgery was performed on Friday and I felt like a new person the next day,” he says.

Not long after, in 2014, Bernard’s wife, Dorothea, began feeling weak and tired. This lack of energy had her concerned enough to see her internist, who performed an echocardiogram, the results of which led her to a cardiologist at U-M and a diagnosis of calcification of the heart valve and valve leakage. Dorothea, like Bernard, was a candidate for the TAVR procedure at U-M.

“My doctor indicated that without surgery I wouldn’t be here in a couple of years. I did not hesitate to have the procedure,” she says, admitting that she feels much better since her TAVR.

Marilyn Reeve

U-M TAVR patient Marilyn Reeve

Marilyn Reeve’s heart issues started with quadruple bypass surgery at age 59. Ten years later, she began having trouble walking short distances, needing to stop often to catch her breath. The diagnosis was aortic valve stenosis. Due to her health history, open-heart surgery was out of the question, according to her doctor. “She recommended I go to the University of Michigan to see if there was anything they could do for me,” Marilyn says.

Fortunately, Marilyn was a candidate for Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR), a procedure for those who cannot tolerate open-heart surgery. Marilyn’s TAVR procedure was a success. “I had my procedure on a Friday and was home on Monday. It’s marvelous what they can do.”

Today, at age 70, Marilyn is back to doing all her own yard work as well as other physical things she couldn’t have done two years ago. She credits the entire U-M TAVR team with helping her get her health back. “U-M is the best hospital ever,” she says.

Patient Resources

Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR)

To view a list of all guides, visit our Cardiovascular Patient Information Guides page or the cardiovascular section of the Michigan Medicine Care Guides website.

Make an Appointment

To schedule an appointment to discuss your eligibility for TAVR, call us at 888-287-1082 or visit our Make a Cardiovascular Appointment page, where you may fill out a Patient Appointment Request Form and view other details about making an appointment.