Olan Dunn is a U.S. Navy veteran, a decades-long retiree of Ingalls Shipbuilding, a devoted grandfather and the first Memorial patient to receive a transcatheter valve replacement (TAVR). This procedure is recommended for patients suffering from severe aortic stenosis, or the narrowing of the heart’s aortic valve.
Symptoms of aortic stenosis include heart murmurs, chest pain, tiredness, shortness of breath and heart palpitations. Dunn was “seeing stars” when he was experiencing the most severe symptoms and was diagnosed with a heart murmur. It wasn’t until April 2023 that he started to worry.
“I got up one morning and knew something was wrong,” he recalls. “My daughter called the paramedics. Had I been five minutes later arriving at the hospital, I wouldn’t be here.”
From there, Dunn was referred to Dr. Umair Malik, who sat down with Dunn to review his options, including TAVR. Rather than replacing the failing valve via open-heart surgery, this less-invasive procedure replaces the valve via a catheter inserted into a blood vessel.
“Dr. Malik used heart models and explained everything,” Dunn says, “showing me where they were going to put the stent and what was going to come next.”
CLOSE TO HOME
Dr. Malik says he believes strongly that local patients need this service.
“I have seen patients, who can’t walk from the parking lot to the exam room, travel for several appointments to different locations over an hour away — only to get a procedure that we should be able to offer,” he says. “After working for three years to get the program off the ground, I felt like we were able to address a major unmet need of our community.”
Dunn was “a little apprehensive” about the procedure, especially being the first. However, as he was waiting to go into the surgery, he saw a familiar face – his at-home nurse. He realized once he entered the operating room that the Memorial cardiology team was there to observe the procedure.
One thing Dunn is most grateful for is not having to travel elsewhere to get the care he needs and being able to continue his treatment plan, including cardiac rehabilitation, close to home. He’s also grateful for his care team.
‘LUCKY AND WONDERFUL’
As part of his recovery and treatment plan, Dunn attends cardiac rehabilitation several times a week.
“I can’t run the 100-yard dash like I used to,” he laughs when asked how he’s feeling a few months post-surgery. “But I am ready to teach my grandkids how to swim.”
As of mid-December, he was down more than 60 pounds. His cholesterol and high blood pressure also are under control, and he’s feeling “lucky and wonderful”.
To learn more about this procedure, visit wearememorial.com/tavr.