After TAVR procedure, Henry has his breath, and his normal life, back

When Henry Royer of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, found himself struggling for breath even during simple activities like walking a few hundred feet, he knew it was time to see his cardiologist.

Henry Royer at home with his horse

An echocardiogram at his local hospital revealed the aortic valve in Henry’s heart was severely narrowed. His cardiologist told him the heart valve needed to be replaced very soon, but Henry, 87, knew open heart surgery would be risky at his age.

Henry’s cardiologist sent him to the University of Iowa Heart and Vascular Center, where transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) was performed. TAVR is a way of replacing the valve without open heart surgery.

“It was a lifesaver,” says Henry, who was back to his normal routine within a few weeks. “It seems to have rejuvenated me.”

Simple chores became too difficult to do

Every morning, Henry walks out the back door of his home and feeds his two horses. It’s about a 200-foot walk to the feeding buckets, where he drops in a few sleeves of hay.

“I had trouble even doing that,” he says. “About halfway back I’d have to stop to catch my breath and get the strength to continue.”

Henry’s cardiologist had been monitoring his ailing aortic valve for about 15 years, but the recent deterioration was rapid and alarming. Henry met with UI cardiologist James Rossen, MD, who determined that Henry was an ideal candidate for TAVR.

“Henry has chronic medical conditions that would increase his risk with valve replacement by open surgery,” Rossen says. “TAVR is less invasive and less stressful, and recovery from a TAVR is usually quite fast.”

Iowa’s most experienced TAVR experts

In a TAVR procedure, the new heart valve is mounted on a metal mesh tube and introduced into the body through an artery. The valve is advanced through the artery and positioned within the patient’s diseased heart valve, where it is expanded and released.  

The University of Iowa Heart and Vascular Center was the first in Iowa to offer TAVR and is the most experienced TAVR center in the region. The UI is the only site in Iowa conducting research into making TAVR procedures even safer and more effective.

“I went into the operating room at about 8 o’clock Tuesday morning, and by 4 o’clock Wednesday afternoon I was home,” Henry says. “That’s spectacular.”

Back to a normal quality of life

Now he’s back to feeding the horses every morning, fixing fences around the property, and generally living his life the way he would expect.

“I am absolutely ecstatic about the treatment I received and the manner in which it was delivered,” says Henry, who credits Rossen, Angela Kipp, RN, and the staff in the UI Hospitals & Clinics intensive care unit with outstanding care. “The whole thing went like clockwork.”

Cedar Rapids, Iowa