In the late 1990s, Earnest Tate was named the first black police chief of Selma, Alabama. Nearly 20 years later, Tate is retired and works on his family farm in the city where he made history. But a minor heart attack that led to heart failure threatened his ability to work the land he loves so dearly.
“I tried to not show sickness; but since my wife was a nurse, she still saw it,” Tate said. “It made a big impact on my whole family. I never got scared because I never had time to get scared.”
After consulting with his physician in Selma, Tate was sent to UAB for a consultation. Mark F. Sasse, M.D., an associate professor of Interventional Cardiology, says Tate’s heart pumping function was significantly reduced compared to normal.
“The pumping function of Mr. Tate’s heart was fairly reduced, so he was at a higher risk than our normal transcatheter patients,” Sasse said. “The percentage of blood being pumped out was nearly 30 percent less than people with normal pumping functions. This TAVR procedure was preferable to major heart surgery.”
Sasse says that transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR, provides easier recovery when compared to open-heart surgery; patients typically do not stay in intensive care units as long.
In the TAVR procedure, a replacement valve is placed inside a catheter. The catheter is then placed through the leg or through the chest of the patient. It is then placed into the old valve while the heart is still beating, and the heart is able to pump blood through the valve just like new.
Sasse is happy to see that his patient is doing well and ready to get back to a normal life.
|“I can rest better at night,” Tate said. “I used to be too tired to eat. My appetite came back. I used to have to ride in a wheelchair, but I don’t have to ride in a wheelchair anymore.”
UAB was the first in the state of Alabama to perform the TAVR procedure in 2012. More than 300 total cases have been completed since then.
“We took a person who was very debilitated and gave him back his life,” Sasse said. “He couldn’t sleep at night. Now he can sleep. That’s the real benefit of this procedure. People who can’t do daily activities are able to do those things now.”
After visiting with Sasse for a one-month checkup, Tate is now feeling better and is able to do the things he wants to do without feeling tired.
“I can rest better at night,” Tate said. “I used to be too tired to eat. My appetite came back. I used to have to ride in a wheelchair, but I don’t have to ride in a wheelchair anymore.”
UAB was the first in the state of Alabama to perform the TAVR procedure in 2012. More than 300 total cases have been completed since then. Sasse says his staff averages four or five per week.
“With people who had been considered for open-heart surgery in the past, we’ve noticed certain subgroups, typically the elderly, don’t do well,” Sasse said. “All these patients were offered high-risk surgeries or nothing at all. TAVR gave them another option.”
The sky is the limit for people with heart failure, according to Sasse. UAB is already in its third iteration of the valve with the Sapien-3 valve.
“The engineering keeps getting better each time,” he said. “The companies are still working on making them better. The future is super bright for treating a bigger patient population.”
That is good news for patients like Tate. After a minor stint in the hospital and a quick recovery, the TAVR procedure has provided him with another chance to do what he loves — working his farm.
“It was a relief to go home,” Tate said. “It took me several months to get sick, and I know it is going to take several months to get well; but I’m ready to get back to my farm. I want to get back to my cows and baling my hay.”
|Several patients share their stories of how UAB’s heart team helped them overcome serious valve disease problems that could otherwise have shortened their lives.|