Iberia patient story

Valve Disease


Iberia Ardao traveled to Penn for a cutting-edge heart valve treatment.
Dante Parenti

"My mom wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Penn."
When Iberia started experiencing shortness of breath and tightness in her chest, her daughter took her to a local hospital. But a delay in performing certain diagnostic procedures resulted in pulmonary edema. "I had a fit," says Linda, Iberia’s daughter. Linda insisted on having her mom transferred to the University of Pennsylvania. Iberia was examined and diagnosed with a severely calcified aortic valve. Even worse, she was not healthy enough to undergo surgery.

 

A new, minimally invasive treatment
Fortunately, Penn was one of four centers in the U.S. testing a new procedure called Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR). In this procedure, a replacement valve is inserted through a small incision in the thigh, eliminating the need for open heart surgery. Iberia would need a battery of tests to qualify for the valve replacement. "She was so nervous," says Linda. "At one point, one of the nurses was lying down with her throughout the whole test. She was amazing." Iberia became the 12th person in the U.S. to have a TAVR, in a surgery performed by Dr. Joseph Bavaria. Almost immediately, Iberia’s health began to improve.

 

Bouncing back to health
"We were astounded," says Linda. "As soon as they deployed the valve, her numbers started getting better. Then at her six-month check, her ejection fraction (a sign of the heart’s pumping ability) had doubled!" Iberia’s return to health meant that she could get back to the most important part of her life: caring for her husband, Manny, who was suffering from dementia. "While my mom was being treated, Dad was alone in his apartment," says Linda. "I would tell him where Mom was, but he would forget. He was so worried about her." "Thanks to Penn, my mom was able to be with my dad for the last year of his life," says Linda. "I cannot say enough wonderful things about the people at Penn Medicine."