Why Mike had a change of heart

Mike Connelly is 88 years young and fully intends to stick around awhile. In March 2016, he was the first Bayhealth patient to receive a specialized heart valve procedure calledtranscatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR.

Connelly, who has always been active, was born in Jersey City, New Jersey. At a young age, Connelly discovered he had a talent for mechanical work by taking apart one kitchen appliance after another. As an adult, he worked for IBM, providing service and maintenance on typewriters. He earned 28 awards for excellence while working at IBM. “I had real talent,” said Connelly. “Everything I touched, I fixed.”

In the mid-1980s, Connelly saw big changes coming in the field of technology, and took an option for early retirement. He moved to Delaware soon afterward, and has been a resident of Dover for more than 25 years. He loves to fish and hunt in the areas surrounding Dover.

In 1985, newly retired, Connelly developed chest pain. He had several operations, starting with stent placement 16 years ago to open a blocked blood vessel, then again in 2002. Vincent Abbrescia, DO, became Connelly’s cardiologist in 2013. Dr. Abbrescia diagnosed Connelly with severe aortic valve stenosis, which meant his heart was no longer pumping blood well to the rest of his body. Because of his condition, Connelly suffered from chronic fatigue and had very little energy to do the things he loved.

Dr. Abbrescia told Connelly that he would eventually need valve replacement surgery, but Connelly wouldn’t hear of it. At the time, a local valve replacement meant open heart surgery, which Connelly didn’t want. For another two years, Dr. Abbrescia continually tried to convince Connelly to consider the surgery. “His health was declining,” said Dr. Abbrescia, “He was dealing with multiple arrhythmias and had a terrible quality of life.” Still, Connelly wasn’t convinced.

In 2015, Dr. Abbrescia knew TAVR would soon be available at Bayhealth. He told Connelly that he was “the perfect candidate” for the TAVR procedure. Without the valve replacement, Dr. Abbrescia told him, Connelly had a maximum of three years to live. Although the TAVR procedure wouldn’t be appropriate for everyone, he felt the TAVR procedure could both extend and improve Connelly’s life. Finally, Connelly agreed to undergo TAVR surgery.

Immediately, Connelly was excited for his procedure, while his hesitation disappeared. He was thrilled to be Bayhealth’s very first TAVR patient and promised to share his story with others the moment he recovered.

Bayhealth’s Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Gary Szydlowski, MD, was instrumental in bringing the TAVR procedure to Bayhealth. “Mr. Connelly was a great candidate for TAVR because he was mentally sharp, had good heart function, no artery blockages, and he was very motivated.”

Dr. Szydlowski and Interventional Cardiologist Roberto Scaffidi, MD, conducted the surgery at Bayhealth Kent General. Cardiologist John Shuck, MD, and Cardiothoracic Surgeon Daniel Marelli, MD, assisted with the surgery. The surgery took two and a half hours, and Connelly pulled through with flying colors.

“I was really impressed with the collaboration between the cardiologists and the surgeons,” said Dr. Szydlowski.

“Connelly’s surgery couldn’t have been more perfect,” said Dr. Abbrescia. “There were no complications with his procedure, or with his recovery. It was very successful.”

Now, several months into his recovery, Connelly calls TAVR “nothing short of miraculous.” Every Tuesday, Connelly walks about a mile with his neighbor. He enjoys his newfound energy and his ability to go the distance.

“For someone who couldn’t walk across his living room, this is a miraculous operation,” said Dr. Abbrescia, who sees Connelly frequently for follow-up visits. “His quality of life has been vastly improved.” 

Visit bayhealth.org/TAVR to learn more about the TAVR procedure at Bayhealth or call 302-744-6600. Find your Bayhealth Physician at 1-866-BAY-DOCS or visit Bayhealth.org/physicians.