Nick Nicholas and his wife, Nanci, are avid street rodders. For years, they’ve spent their free time building cars from just a basket case and showing them off at numerous car shows around the country. But last spring Nicholas’ passion was fading along with his health.
“It’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of effort and I just didn’t feel like doing any of that kind of stuff which is unusual. I didn’t have any energy. At one point in time I couldn’t sleep because I felt as though I was suffocating,” explains Nicholas.
That lack of energy and desire to do what he loved led Nicholas to Dr. Muhammadd Azzouz at St. Mary’s Heart & Vascular Institute.
“I listened to his heart, and he had a significant heart murmur. So I was worried about aortic stenosis. The heart is a pump and the valve is like your pipe. And even though the pump might be working, if your pipe is clogged, the pump is not going to be efficient. That’s what was going on with Nick because his valve was barely opening,” Azzouz describes.
Nicholas didn’t realize just how bad his condition truly was.
“It’s a miracle that I didn’t have a heart attack. I was definitely concerned about my condition, but I didn’t want to have open heart surgery and to have my chest split open,” says Nicholas.
After studying Nicholas’ test results, Azzouz and the entire heart team at St. Mary’s recommended a transcatheter aortic valve replacement or TAVR for Nicholas. It’s a minimally invasive alternative to open heart surgery.
“TAVR is a way of replacing the aortic valve in a minimally invasive way percutaneously.
We go through the groin and we run a catheter to the aortic valve and then we put a new valve inside the old valve,” Azzouz explains.
St. Mary’s is the only medical facility between Salt Lake City and Denver that has the highly skilled specialists and a hybrid operating room to perform the lifesaving TAVR procedure. Nicholas was their 200th TAVR patient.
“After the procedure I honestly immediately started feeling better. I could breathe better. I felt my energy coming back,” exclaims Nicholas.
“One of things I really like about doing TAVR is it’s rewarding for the patients. But, honestly it’s rewarding for me as a physician. The benefit is almost instantaneous for most patients,” explains Azzouz.
According to Azzouz, most TAVR patients spend one night in the hospital and are discharged after lunch the following day. From there, it’s recommended that TAVR patients enroll in cardiac rehabilitation to improve exercise tolerance, functional independence, and quality of life.
Nicholas and his wife are now getting back to what they love, hot rodding. They are currently finishing up Nanci’s 1967 blue Chevelle with plans to take it on the road to car shows this summer.
“The TAVR procedure was easy for me. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Dr. Azzouz saved Nick in the nick of time,” Nicholas chuckles.