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Senior Gets ‘New Lease on Life’ After Heart Valve Replacement

James Murray

Some people say age is just a number. For James Murray, those words ring especially true.

At age 87, the Rahway man had a heart valve replaced at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, an RWJBarnabas Health facility. Just five days later, he attended his wife Katherine’s 82nd birthday celebration.

Now, after only four weeks, the retired railroad engineer doesn’t feel “a day over 70,” he says. “When I wake up in the morning, it’s just like normal; like there was nothing done.”

Alternative to surgery
Before the procedure, James had grown extremely short of breath. The diagnosis: a failing heart valve.

“To see Dad struggle to breathe was devastating,” recalls daughter Mary Koch, a nurse educator at NBIMC. “We all felt helpless.”

She knew her father would face increasing disability and hospitalizations, if nothing were done. But traditional open-heart surgery to repair the valve would require a longer recuperation period.

Fortunately, NBIMC offers a less-invasive option, done through a thin tube (catheter) inserted in the groin and threaded up to the heart. The procedure, called transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), consists of placing an artificial valve inside the damaged valve -- through the catheter, with no chest incision required.

“It was life-changing,” says Mary, reflecting on the month since her father’s TAVR. “Dad has returned to his normal activities. He makes breakfast for Mom every day. He gardens and does repairs around the house. He goes to church often.”

“It’s a new lease on life,” says James, his voice tinged with emotion. “It’s going to be very good to last a little longer.”