Healing Hearts Without Heart Surgery

FRESNO, Calif.

At her fountain, with her flowers, and in her garden, that's where Gerri Schoolfield, loves to be.

"I'm not an indoor person. I'd rather be outdoors anytime," Gerri to Ivanhoe.

However, within the last year, being outdoors, even taking a short walk to the mailbox was becoming difficult for Gerri.

"I just wasn't feeling well at all, and I was just tired all the time," Gerri said.

She was diagnosed with a deadly form of heart disease: aortic stenosis. Most individuals are born with healthy heart valves, but as people get older, their valves and blood vessels tend to get harder and calcify. Thirty percent of people over age 80 develop aortic stenosis, and 90 percent of those will die within two years if they don't do anything about it.

"It's really far more deadly than any of the malignant cancers," William O'Neill, M.D., a professor of cardiology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, explained. "It's really a lot, a lot to put people through."

For the last 50 years, the only option for people like Gerri was open heart surgery. But at the age of 88, the procedure itself could prove deadly. Doctors at Miami's Miller School of Medicine are using a new procedure to treat the disease without surgery. The procedure works by placing a catheter in the patient's leg or chest, and delivers it to the heart. Then, a balloon pushes aside the diseased valve and implants a new device. The end result:

"As you'll see with Ms. Schoolfield, within months, you're totally back to normal," Dr. O'Neill said.

"It's just so much better. I can work practically all day without stopping in my yard now, and I'm doing wonderful," Gerri said.

While this procedure is still undergoing clinical trials, it should be available for the general public later this year.

If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marsha Hitchcock at mhitchcock@ivanhoe.com

Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.