At 83, Virginia had been living with an abnormal heart valve for most of her life, she was monitored and things were stable. Over time, her valve worsened, and during COVID she didn’t have access to the same medical care and testing.
By the time she was able to see her physician in 2021, she was feeling increasingly tired and out of breath. A stethoscope check confirmed her mitral valve had deteriorated. Then a consultation with her cardiologist and a cardiac surgeon confirmed she had a severely leaky mitral valve and it would need to be repaired or replaced.
Virginia was referred to Saskatoon-based cardiologist Dr. Janine Eckstein to learn about less invasive options to manage her valve. Dr. Eckstein had been arranging for patients like Virginia to get transcatheter mitral valve repair procedures done out of province — a procedure she was advocating to have done in in Saskatchewan, removing the need for patients to travel out of province.
Through shared decision-making (a process that involves doctors and patients working together to choose the most suitable treatment, based on the patient’s preferences and goals, as well as clinical evidence and the doctor’s expertise) and support from her daughter, Brenda and two sons, Calvin and Grant, Virginia agreed to travel to Toronto for the procedure.
Without a specific date, they waited. November passed. December was well underway and still no news.
“Then I got a call just before Christmas from Genna, Dr. Eckstein’s assistant,” recalls Virginia. “She said, I think we’ve got the best Christmas gift for you.” Virginia was told she wouldn’t have to travel to Toronto as the treatment option was now available in Saskatchewan. She couldn’t believe it.
On January 12, Virginia became the first Saskatchewan patient to receive the transcatheter mitral valve repair for her leaking valve in the province by Dr. Eckstein and her colleagues at RUH.
“I’m thrilled it was done,” she admits. More than three months since the procedure, Virginia feels good. She is still amazed she didn’t have to face the travel to Toronto and the associated costs and stress. She was in her apartment until the morning of her procedure and back home the next day, with help from her daughter Brenda. In a short time, her daughter noticed her mother had better colour and more energy. In her eyes, the procedure made a marked improvement in her quality of life.
“My doctor told me to ‘do anything you feel you can do.’” To get her exercise, Virginia walks in her apartment building and manages to do her own cleaning. As for stairs, she knows not to tackle them until she speaks to her doctor at her next visit. In the meantime, Virginia and her daughter have started a list of questions in advance of her next check-up.
She has energy for things she enjoys and is thrilled to have more time with her family, and never tires of answering her great grandchildren's questions on how the doctor fixed her heart.
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