The Problem: A Heart Attack
David May, 76, can’t pinpoint when exactly his heart problems began.
“Looking back, things were probably building up over the last year,” David says.
The retired Muncy, Pa. native chalked up the slight changes in his health to age.
“I had shortness of breath, but I thought that was just because I was getting old. Occasional indigestion didn’t concern me very much either. I didn’t realize how off I was feeling,” says David.
But, in August 2018, David — an Army vet — had chest pains that quickly became a heart attack. EMS took him to a local hospital, UPMC Susquehanna Williamsport.
The Path to UPMC's Heart and Vascular Institute in Pittsburgh
After initial treatment, doctors discussed David’s case with experts at UPMC's Heart and Vascular Institute through a secure teleconference line. This partnership gives patients the care of the doctor in the room and all HVI specialists throughout the UPMC system.
Doctors agreed the best course of action would be to send him to UPMC Presbyterian. Soon after, David was on a life-flight from Williamsport to Pittsburgh.
As soon as he got to the hospital, David was under the care of John Schindler, MD, an interventional cardiologist.
“Dr. Schindler is such a friendly guy,” David explains.
Due to high levels of both water weight and blood pressure, doctors placed David in the ICU for a few weeks.
Despite being four hours from home, David wasn't alone. Family members came to Pittsburgh to spend time with him.
Dr. Schindler and his staff kept a close eye on David’s levels and started planning the next steps.
The Solution: TAVR and MitraClip®
After clearing David from the ICU, Dr. Schindler began further assessing him for the type of treatments he would need.
Dr. Schindler found he had to replace or repair both David’s aortic and mitral valves. He also determined that David was not a good fit for open heart surgery.
Thankfully, there were treatments other than open heart surgery to address David's issues.
Dr. Schindler worked with his colleague, A.J. Conrad Smith, MD, to perform three separate procedures on David’s heart.
“I like to think of it as being fixed one piece at a time,” David chuckles.
First, Dr. Schindler placed two stents to restore proper blood flow after David's heart attack.
Dr. Schindler used special x-ray imaging to guide a catheter holding the replacement valve to David’s aortic valve. The replacement valve — made of biological tissues inside a stent — expanded over David’s damaged valve to restore proper blood flow.
#3. Mitral valve repair
After David healed for a few days, Dr. Smith repaired David’s leaking mitral valve.
The mitral valve is between the heart’s left chambers. It works to keep blood flowing.
When the mitral valve doesn't close tightly, it can prevent blood from flowing correctly or cause blood to flow backward. This causes a build-up of fluid in the lungs, leading to symptoms such as the shortness of breath David had.
Dr. Smith used the MitraClip to repair David’s leaking valve.
Like TAVR, Dr. Smith inserted the MitraClip via a catheter. He guided the clip into the left chambers of David’s heart and placed it over the leaky mitral valve.
“My oxygen levels drastically improved not long after the MitraClip procedure. I was able to go home a few days later,” says David.
The Results: Enjoying Hobbies
After discharge from UPMC Presbyterian, David spent a week and a half at UPMC Susquehanna Muncy to make sure he healed properly.
Dr. Schindler prescribed cardiac rehab to David.
Cardiac rehab is an outpatient exercise program after a heart disease diagnosis or treatment that helps:
- Strengthen the heart muscles.
- Increase energy.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
Since UPMC offers cardiac rehab across the system, David did his rehab in Williamsport — only 21 miles from his house.
After treatment, David's breathing has improved, and he's feeling much better.
Now, he's back to enjoying his hobbies, including:
- Coin collecting
- Taking his 1955 Mercury to car shows
David likes to drop off baked goods to the staff at UPMC Susquehanna – Muncy to thank them for the care he received.
“Everybody at UPMC was great,” David exclaims.
After a 30-day post-op checkup, Dr. Schindler told David he didn't need to return to Pittsburgh until the one-year mark from surgery. He follows up with Scott Rosenbaum, PA-C, at UPMC Susquehanna in Williamsport for care close to home.
David remains grateful for the care he received at UPMC, both in Susquehanna and in Pittsburgh.
“Everything they did for me worked,” he says.