12 INVESTIGATES: New heart valve surgery

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - Forget open heart surgery - there's a new procedure happening in the United States and it is taking off at a local hospital.

It could keep your loved ones with heart problems - especially grandparents - around a lot longer. It's a medical breakthrough changing lives in Central Virginia.

To meet Wilbert Story is to know a Hopewell, walking miracle. It wasn't so long ago story that Story was stuck in bed - attached to an oxygen machine.

"I was in bad shape," said Wilbert. "I couldn't even open the door and walk out to my mailbox. I couldn't breathe."

The 88-year-old's four sons even had a family meeting. He told them about his will - his last wishes.

"He really wouldn't be here today," said Howard Story, Wilbert's son. "He was that bad. He was turning gray."

He had a failing heart valve.

"Analogy is the nozzle on the garden hose that's being narrowed down to the point where you got only spray coming out," said Dr. Charles Phillips for Henrico Doctor's Hospital.

For patients like Wilbert Story, open heart surgery is out the question. He'd likely die on the operating table.

The procedure that saved his life is called a Trancatheter Aortic Valve Replacement, or TAVR for short. The FDA approved this in the U.S. just two years ago.

Henrico Doctor's Hospital was the first to perform it in our area. They even built a special hybrid room.

Doctors make an incision in the groin, rather than open the chest. They run a catheter through the artery to the heart. They get one shot to get it right.

"The real difference is the recovery time," said Dr. Phillips. "From TAVR, patients are up and moving and are generally out of the hospital from 3 to 5 days."

During our visit, they had just completed their 17th TAVR procedure.

Wilbert Story was Dr. Phillips' first patient and success story.

"It's amazing, the difference between where he was then and where he is now," said Howard. "It's kind of a miracle really."

These days there's nothing stopping Wilbert from telling his story.

"I can walk to the mailbox, I go shopping. I go to Food Lion to get my groceries," said Wilbert Story. "I'm doing very, very well."

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