Toms River Senior Gets Life-Saving Heart Valve Replacement at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark

Donald Estelle

Donald Estelle felt just fine heading into a routine appointment with his primary physician. However, the physician was troubled by what he heard with a stethoscope and referred Donald to a cardiologist for further testing.

After undergoing an electrocardiogram (EKG), Donald received the shocking news that his aortic valve was not opening adequately. And while this was certainly a serious condition, the cardiologist felt that Donald didn’t need to jump into surgery right away but would need to address it over time.

The time period came quicker than expected. Just a year later at his annual cardiology check-up, the 76-year-old Toms River resident learned that his condition had gone from serious to severe. Time was of the essence.

Donald was referred to cardiac surgeon Mark J. Russo, MD, Director, Center for Aortic Diseases and Cardiothoracic Research, Barnabas Health Heart Center at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, an RWJBarnabas Health facility.

During the consultation, Dr. Russo explained that Donald’s aortic valve was not functioning properly and needed to be replaced. “I was shocked and scared and didn’t know what to say,” says Donald.

After a comprehensive evaluation and discussion with Donald, Dr. Russo, a heart surgeon who performs both traditional open heart surgery and less-invasive catheter-based procedures, recommended Donald undergo Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR).

TAVR is a minimally invasive treatment for severe aortic stenosis, regardless of a patient’s age or comorbidities. It involves placing an artificial tissue valve inside the diseased native valve via catheter, usually through the groin. Recovery is minimal and patients often return home the next day.

Dr. Russo performed the successful TAVR procedure.

Donald’s wife Carol of 20 years is forever grateful to Dr. Russo. “He took my husband’s life into his hands and made sure everything was all right.” “I asked Dr. Russo to promise me that he would bring back my husband walking and talking like I brought him in here. Dr. Russo did a beautiful job – he’s my hero.”

Following the procedure, Donald does not have any limitations. “I feel great and can’t ask for anything more,” he says.

“It was a miracle that my husband was able to be cared for by Dr. Russo – he used his head and his heart,” notes Carol. “I can’t praise Dr. Russo and the entire staff enough for the tremendous care they provided to my husband and me. I would recommend Dr. Russo and the staff to anyone.”

For more information about TAVR offered by the Barnabas Health Heart Centers, visit or call 888-724-7123.