John Kiefer on the dock, ready to kayak

From Fatigued to Feeling Pumped to Paddle – Thanks to TAVR

Heart & Vascular

For 79-year-old John Kiefer, being physically active—working out, biking, kayaking—  has always been a way of life. A couple years ago he noticed his energy levels going down. For the first time in his life he needed to take naps to get through each day. He chalked it up to aging and his body finally starting to slow down.  

Kiefer had regularly been seeing Bayhealth Cardiologist Judith Rippert, DO, for a heart murmur. Dr. Rippert found that aortic valve stenosis was reducing blood flow to his heart and causing his fatigue. This condition most commonly affects older adults. It occurs when calcium, a naturally found mineral in the blood, gradually builds up and narrows the aortic valve opening in the heart. Other symptoms include dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pain and heart palpitations. Even when the signs are mild, the condition is known to continually worsen and be deadly if not treated. 

After further testing and evaluation, Kiefer was told he was an ideal candidate for the  procedure. It’s a lifesaving option for valve replacement that is minimally invasive. It’s used instead of the traditional open heart surgery, which carries greater risks to some patients based on age or other factors. 

Kiefer had relied on Bayhealth to get him through several health challenges over the years. “All my experiences at Bayhealth have been nothing but positive and over the top–with treatment and personalities,” Kiefer said. He knew he could trust the expert care of their TAVR team.

Bayhealth is the first and only healthcare system in Delaware to be nationally certified by the American College of Cardiology (ACC) as a TAVR Center of Excellence. We’ve earned this gold standard for cardiac care through best practices and teamwork that ensure quality, safety and an optimal patient experience. As a team, Cardiac Surgeons Gary Szydlowski, MD, and Daniel Marelli, MD; Interventional Cardiologists Roberto Scaffidi, MD, and Manjeet Singh, MD, and TAVR Program Coordinator Todd Brandt, PA-C, evaluate each patient to plan the approach that is best, then closely follow them each step of the way—before, during and after the procedure. 

In Kiefer’s case they used a catheter through an artery in his leg to access his damaged valve and replace it with a new one. He was relieved he could avoid open heart surgery and have a faster recovery with the TAVR procedure. It also meant no incision, minimal scarring, less pain and less time in the hospital.

He was thrilled with the care he received and the outcome after his TAVR procedure at Bayhealth Hospital, Kent Campus. He said all those involved in his care made their rounds and checked on him during his brief hospital stay—an overnight with discharge the following morning. “What a terrific team at Bayhealth!” raved Kiefer. “From my cardiologist Dr. Rippert who has always taken great care of me, to Dr. [Sanjeev] Patel who did testing in the Cath Lab, to the TAVR team—which included Dr. Szydlowski and Todd—they all were excellent.” 

Kiefer also credits the Cardiac Rehabilitation team at Bayhealth Hospital, Sussex Campus, including Exercise Physiologist Rebecca Fournier, Cheryle “Cheri” Knotts, RN, and Kathleen Krafcik, RRT, for helping him bounce back afterwards. “Their team was also terrific. I’m grateful for their expertise and constant monitoring of my blood pressure and heart rate,” he said. Through this medically-supervised program, Bayhealth team members worked with Kiefer several times a week for a couple months on a customized plan of exercise and education that helped him regain strength and fitness. 

“The difference in my lifestyle has been tremendous. I’ve also had a 20-pound weight loss after the procedure, as I’ve been able to get back to the activity level I once had,” said Kiefer. “Here I am back in action at almost 80 years old and my energy is through the roof now—I can hardly believe it! I’m certainly glad I had it done.” 

Visit Bayhealth.org/Heart-and-Vascular to learn more about the care that Bayhealth offers to help those with cardiac conditions and strengthen heart health in our community.