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Cardiovascular Clinic Patient Testimonials

Walker Heart Cardiovascular Clinic is here for you! Discover what our patients say about their experience.

Flora Fitzsimmons

Thanks to the TAVR procedure at Walker Heart Institute, patient Flora Fitzsimmons is here to share her story.

Rick Smith

Heart patient and horseshoe champion Rick Smith of Wesley, Arkansas is happy to be back in tournament competition, aiming for ringers with every pitch. 

Just a few months ago, Rick felt fatigued and had trouble breathing. At age 69, he found it difficult to compete in his treasured horseshoe tournaments, having to take frequent breaks and use supplemental oxygen. His wife, Darcy, was worried about his health and felt she needed to constantly monitor his condition during competition.

When doctors recommended that Rick have a heart valve replacement, however, the couple was hesitant. Heart valve replacement has traditionally required an open heart procedure and, with multiple health issues including COPD, Rick’s recovery from an earlier open heart surgery had taken nearly a year. “During that long recovery there was a lot of anxiety and stress,” Darcy recalls. “It was so difficult – it’s like it changed his soul.”
Fortunately, doctors at Washington Regional’s Walker Heart Institute were able to offer Rick a minimally invasive option known as TAVR, transcatheter aortic valve replacement. TAVR uses advanced imaging techniques to guide a small catheter inserted in the patient’s leg to replace the aortic valve without opening the chest. 

Washington Regional began performing TAVR, formerly available only at large research centers, in 2018 and recently opened a dedicated room for structural heart procedures such as TAVR. 

Rick, who says he “instantly felt better” after his TAVR procedure this past July, was able to go home the following day. And, just two weeks after that, “My doctor gave the okay, and I was out pitching that afternoon,” Rick says. 

“There has been an amazing difference in his energy level,” Darcy says. “He is able to get up and do things, spend time with his family and play horseshoes without having to take breaks or use oxygen.”

And now, Darcy can enjoy herself at horseshoe tournaments, too, without needing to monitor Rick’s condition. They both are grateful that TAVR offers a chance for a longer life – and improved quality of life – for aortic stenosis patients like Rick who aren’t candidates for open heart surgery. Six months ago, Darcy worried that her husband might not be alive today. And now, she says that although Rick is the one who had the procedure, “Walker Heart Institute saved both of our lives.”

Steve Williams

At age 5 months, Henley Kate doesn’t know about the adventures her grandfather, Steve Williams, has planned for their time together. “If she wants to hunt, I can teach her,” says Steve, who helps organize youth events that promote hunter education and safety. “If she wants to fish or golf, I can give her those lessons, too. I want to be an active grandfather.” Thanks to the fast and thorough response by the Emergency Team at Washington Regional, Steve will get to be that kind of grandfather.

When a recent case of flu became severe, Steve’s primary care physician sent him to the Washington Regional Emergency Department. “I knew the ER staff would treat my flu symptoms,” he says, “but I had no idea just how thorough my treatment there would be.” What Steve did not know, but the ER staff discovered during his exam, is that in addition to flu he had some potentially fatal heart conditions.

“Within a day, I had a pacemaker implanted,” Steve says. “Then the cardiology team found there was a hole in one of my heart valves, so the next week I had surgery to replace the diseased valve.”

Steve, who likes to be “on the go,” soon learned his way around the cardiology nursing unit. “They told me if I could get up and walk, I would go home sooner. So, as soon as I was able, I walked about eight miles a day on the third floor of the hospital. I got to know the staff up there pretty well. They answered every question I had.”

Although the heart diagnoses were a shock to Steve, he is grateful to have made a full recovery. “In addition to the ER staff, I credit Dr. Joel Carver and Dr. Russell Wood and all the cardiology nurses for getting me back home, back to work, and in better shape than I’ve ever been. My motivation was simple. I wanted to live to see my grandchildren and to have adventures with them.”