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Traveling the road of TAVR technology, longer life for truck driver

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When you hear that you only have six months to live, you can feel desperate. For 65-year-old truck driver Thomas Taylor, it meant traveling the road of a new heart valve procedure.

After years of neglecting his health, Thomas suffered from problems with the aortic valve in his heart. It was narrowing and obstructing the blood flow to the rest of his body. He would walk for about 20 feet, but would then be so short of breath he would need to hold on to something to rest. He couldn’t lie down and suffered severe fatigue.

“It was scary,” says Thomas. “I thought ‘I’m a walking dead man’ because I waited too long to go to a doctor and wasn’t listening to my body.”

Searching for Surgical Answers

Thomas has been driving trucks for 42 years, with a home base in New York as well as Temple, TX. On one of his stays in Temple, he was admitted right away to the hospital for a series of tests. He was told that he was too far gone, and if they tried to perform traditional surgery he wouldn’t survive the operation.

Back on the road, Thomas felt defeated. He decided to get a second opinion from his wife’s surgeon on the East Coast which gave him hope. They were able to do a procedure to remove some of the plaque buildup. Doctors gave him about eight more months, because although they helped, they couldn’t get to the core valve.

A Surgical Alternative for Thomas—TAVR

Time was ticking for Thomas. He made preparations to come back down to Temple to visit with his three sons. He thought his days were numbered.

“Explore."

His son, a respiratory therapist, recommended Thomas see another doctor. And although he didn’t have high hopes, Thomas made an appointment to see Scott & White surgeon Dr. Timothy Mixon.

“The minute he walked in the room, Dr. Mixon shook my hand and looked me right in the eye,” says Thomas. “I knew this guys was gonna’ fight for me.”

Dr. Mixon is specially trained in the TAVR procedure (transcatheter aortic valve replacement). It is a non-surgical alternative and less invasive than traditional heart surgery. Through this procedure, the physician can place a new aortic valve in the patient’s heart while it is still beating.

“I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for Scott & White and Dr. Mixon—It’s that simple.”

The only bump in the road for Thomas was finding one his size. This had been the problem on the East Coast, and now Dr. Mixon faced the same hurdle. Luckily, Dr. Mixon did fight for Thomas. He had connections to an oversized valve from his training in California and was able to get it in time for Thomas.

“I made up my mind to just go for it, because what did I have to lose?” he says about the procedure.

Dr. Mixon placed the new aortic heart valve through a catheter. He inserted it through Thomas’ leg and threaded it up to his heart. Although this was a fairly new procedure, especially for an oversized core valve, the outcome was phenomenal.

“Dr. Mixon, in my eyes, is a straight shooter,” says Thomas. “He was a straight shooter with me. I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for Scott & White and Dr. Mixon—It’s that simple.”

A Voice of Comfort for Others

Thomas was relieved and was able to receive the core valve he needed. He tells his doctors if he could help anyone that may be scared about this procedure that he wants to help.

Thomas says he has no pain and is feeling 110% better. He was released on a Tuesday and was out fishing with his boys the next Saturday. He’s been out on the golf course and really enjoying his new quality of life. The procedure doesn’t affect his intimacy with his wife, and now he’s able to keep up with his 15 grandkids.

If you have questions about TAVR technology, talk with your doctor or cardiologist to determine if this is the right treatment for you.

About the author

Jill Taylor
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I contribute content and skills as a freelance writer for Baylor Scott & White Health. I enjoy improving our connection with our readers, patients and communities by assisting with a wide range of writing projects.

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Traveling the road of TAVR technology, longer life for truck driver