81-year-old TAVR patient’s road to recovery

A remarkable woman shares her inspiring journey to good health

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The Edwards SAPIEN 3 Transcatheter Heart Valve

Shirley Clarkson is a remarkable woman with a strong will to live. At age 81, she has undergone a multitude of health issues. This is her story of survival, thanks to recent progressions in medicine.

In 1998, Shirley was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer and was treated with high does of radiation. Despite aggressive treatment, she overcame difficult odds and was able to get back to an active lifestyle that included regular workouts and miles of daily walks.

Some 10 years later Shirley’s general practitioner discovered a heart murmur during an echocardiogram and recommended she be seen at the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center. Here, Dr. Michael Shea diagnosed her with aortic stenosis, a narrowing of the aortic valve opening, likely caused by radiation treatment. Continue reading

Loeys-Dietz syndrome: one family’s story

Learning to live with this genetic connective tissue disorder

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Dr. Rosemary Batanjski knows firsthand about Loeys-Dietz syndrome (LDS), a genetic disorder that affects the connective tissue in the body and often involves the aorta. She was diagnosed with the syndrome, along with many family members, including her own two children, her sister and two children, as well as her father (who died at age 43), aunt and cousin Nik (who passed away at age 31).

Dr. Batanjski’s grandmother also passed away in her late 40s, although a Loeys-Dietz diagnosis did not exist at the time. In fact, the syndrome was identified only 10 years ago. Until the discovery, many Loeys-Dietz patients were thought to have Marfan syndrome, a similar connective tissue disorder. Continue reading

U-M bicuspid aortic valve patient faces challenges head-on

Thelma Thompson proves to be "one tough woman"

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Photograph by Leisa Thompson

 

Thelma Thompson was never one to shy away from exercise. At 67, she was accustomed to playing 36 holes of golf in a single day. When she noticed she was tiring more easily, Thelma chalked it up to “age.” But she realized her diagnosis was much more serious than she suspected when she suffered a heart attack in 2013. Thelma was shocked to discover her coronary artery was 95 percent blocked. At the same time, she was diagnosed with a bicuspid aortic valve and an aneurysm of her thoracic ascending aorta.

Thelma underwent surgery for her blocked artery at her local hospital, and was then referred to the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center in January 2015 for treatment of her bicuspid valve and aortic aneurysm. Continue reading

U-M patient counts blessings each Christmas

Catching up with U-M patient Don Heydens after treatment in 2007 for life-threatening aneurysm

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Each Christmas Eve, Don Heydens and his wife, Ellen, reflect on what could have been the last night of Don’s life. He’s been marking the anniversary of his descending thoracic aortic aneurysm for 10 years now and each time, he counts his blessings that he’s alive.

On Christmas Eve 2004, Don returned from a relative’s home and found he had plenty of gift-wrapping to do, keeping him up later than normal. For this, he is grateful. “I began to lose feeling in my hands and feet, then in my legs and arms,” he says. “If I had gone to bed, I may not have been aware of what was happening.” Don called his sister, a registered nurse, who understood the severity of his condition and advised him to call 911 immediately. Continue reading