Jo Ann Johnson

Dr. Mustafa Ahmed TAVR Structural Heart Patient

Jo Ann, a heart patient at Princeton Baptist, and her husbandJo Ann Johnson is an avid gardener. She and her husband grow okra, corn, green beans, potatoes and blueberries among other things. Jo Ann’s first heart problem started nine years ago after she injured her shoulder and side while using the garden plow. Her pain became progressively worse and when she finally went to her primary care doctor he discovered she had a heart murmur.

After months of check-ups for her heart murmur, her doctor discovered that she had severe heart valve deterioration. Jo Ann went to Princeton Baptist Medical Center where her cardiologist, Dr. Michael Wilensky, diagnosed her with aortic stenosis and arranged for her to have an open heart valve replacement using a bovine (cow) valve. “My heart was so enlarged that I was given a valve that was the largest available at that time,” says Jo Ann. “It should have gone into a large man.”

This year she learned that her bovine valve was starting to deteriorate (they typically last 10 to 15 years). She met Mustafa Ahmed, M.D., director of the structural heart program at Princeton Baptist, and they decided the best option would be to have the Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) procedure to avoid the need for a risky open-heart surgery. The minimally invasive TAVR procedure is used for select patients whose aortic valve has significantly narrowed and who are not good candidates for traditional open-chest surgery.

During surgery, the team, consisting of Dr. Ahmed, Dr. Tom Cawthon, cardiologist, and Dr. Clifton Lewis, cardiothoracic surgeon, discovered that her bovine valve had sunken in on itself and the opening was only the size of a pin. “It was truly remarkable,” says Ahmed, “her valve was so tight that hardly any blood at all was able to move forward through it.” There was no way to get the replacement valve in such a tiny opening so they had to make an immediate decision and find another way to get the replacement valve in place. The situation was so critical that there was not even time to consider a potentially very risky open-heart surgery. Dr. Ahmed decided to take a new approach to cross the valve and weave the TAVR line in reverse, over and around Jo Ann’s heart from the right to the left side of the heart and entered the diseased aortic valve from the other end.

This procedure is amongst the first of its kind in a valve-in-valve TAVR procedure. It has never been done before and they never had to open her chest. “Thank God Dr. Ahmed and Dr. Lewis had the guts and the knowledge to do this,” says Ronna Price, Jo Ann’s daughter. “They came up with a whole new procedure for my mother while she was under anesthesia.” Jo Ann doesn’t think she would have made it if they hadn’t made that decision. “I’m here today because of them,” she says. A week after surgery, Jo Ann was able to return to what she loves most, gardening. “I planted my corn just a week after my procedure,” says Jo Ann. “I couldn’t believe it!”

“The nurses, the physicians and the staff at Princeton’s Structural Heart Center are amazing,” says Ronna. “You can tell Dr. Ahmed loves what he does.” Jo Ann and Ronna are grateful for the quality of care received while at Princeton Baptist. “They are always on top of taking care of people and they treat everyone like you are their only patient.”